Kennedy Visitor Complex blasts off with renovations


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The NASA Logo and the colorful piezoelectric tiles were part of a recent renovation and additions at the Visitor Complex.

R. Norman Moody

If it could be said that Cape Canaveral is the heart of the Space Coast, then the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is its soul.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) offers guests both local and international a unique and exciting look into NASA and the space program.

KSCVC has been keeping the complex fresh and new, giving guests additional opportunities to revisit history, get updated on what’s happening in the space program today and explore what’s planned for the future.

One of the many projects at KSCVC is a 16-month restoration of the Saturn 1B rocket. The huge rocket is one of the first things that guests see when they enter the gates of the KSC Visitor Complex. The restoration and preservation work ensures that the rocket will last for many more years for visitors in the future.

Down the main thoroughfare, there have been various updates to the overall look of the area. There are two new facades, one for the Milky Way ice cream shop and one for the Mars-themed Red Rock Grill.

One of the more fun additions to the main strip in a central plaza area are large circles filled with touch-sensitive titles.

“(KSC) partnered with Georgia Research Institute, and they came up with these piezoelectric-tiles,” said Kenna Pell, the assistant public relations manager for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. “When you step on these tiles, they create piezoelectric electricity. Once you create enough energy (on the tiles), you virtually ‘launch’ a rocket. It’s really cool.”

Piezoelectric energy is gathered from special minerals that produce electricity when pressure is applied to them. The tiles in KSC also light up in response to being stepped on, which slowly fills a rocket-shaped meter on two large screens. Once the meter fills, guests will be treated to a ‘launch’, complete with a countdown, ‘smoke’ and the thundering sounds of liftoff.

There also is a new large Mars Rover prototype vehicle on display, a large NASA logo (affectionately called the NASA “meatball”) that offer photo opportunity for guests, an update to the World’s Largest Space Shop and even a new facility for the Dine With an Astronaut program.

“One of the reasons we designed the smaller training stages is because if you come here as a guest, it’s very hard to see everything in one day,” Pell said. “A lot of people spend up to two days here and, if you add ATX, it can be even longer.”

ATX or Astronaut Training Experience is the newest attraction at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. It is designed to give participants a training experience using simulation technology and virtual reality as if preparing them for working on Mars.

A must-see at KSCVC is Atlantis, the last Space Shuttle to fly in July 2011. It is displayed inside a building next to the Shuttle Launch Experience, which simulates the sensation of a launch.

Bus tours take guests through restricted areas to the Apollo Saturn V Center, where they will see the largest most powerful rocket ever built, Saturn V.

There are seasonal discounts for Florida residents, as well as annual passes. For more information about the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, go to kennedyspacecenter.com.