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another view of the Apollo launch site
Cape Canaveral: Then and Now Tour
Closest available address
Visitor center is about 14 miles from Titusville via US-1 then 405
Visitor center hours are generally 9-5. Tours should be reserved in advance.
Best time to visit
The Then and Now Tour at the Kennedy Space Center is a bus tour with visits to historic buildings and launch sites associated with the early US manned space programs. This narrated 3 hour tour costs $25, which is a fee in addition to the main entrance price of $53. The tour stops at a mission control building for the Mercury program, an astronaut memorial, a historic lighthouse and a launch site for the Apollo program.
Although rocket and missile testing had taken place at Cape Canaveral prior to the Soviet Union’s successful launch of a satellite in 1957, that spectacular achievement and significant threat galvanized America’s space exploration efforts like no other. It led to a national commitment to space exploration that began in earnest with the Mercury program in 1959, was then was enhanced with the Gemini missions in the 1960s and culminated with the Apollo program’s successful moon landing in 1969.
The tour got off to a slow start and was then further delayed because the guide forgot a key for a control room building. The historic control room for the Mercury launches was the most interesting stop. Original equipment was on display but was safeguarded by plastic walls to deter souvenir seekers. Launch technology at the time meant that the control room had to be within a few hundred yards of the rocket, so the control structure was built like a fortress to protect it from possible explosions. A volunteer docent provided a brief overview of both the control rooms and a related museum. The time allotted to check out the museum and a number of outdoor rockets and missiles was completely inadequate. A visit to an Apollo launch pad was interesting but somber due to the loss of the Apollo 1 crew. The stark concrete foundation includes a memorial plaque to the crew. A stop near the lighthouse offered a chance to stretch one’s legs, but the tower was closed. While the guide was pleasant, his commentary was fairly dry and uninsightful. For history and technology buffs, this tour has some merit. For a general audience, the Saturn V Center and the Atlantis Space Shuttle are light years ahead in quality.
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