Sadly, there are only TWO MORE shuttles scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center before the current shuttle space program retires to make way for…. ummm… not sure yet. Discovery is slated for lift-off on September 16th and Endeavor will make its final voyage some time in November. Having seen an up-close shuttle launch first-hand, I can tell you that the experience is as moving as it is memorable. Which is why locals and visitors in Orlando on launch day might want to consider making the effort to head to the coast for blast off.
There are a variety of ways to view a shuttle launch. The obvious choice is to buy tickets from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex ($38 adult/$28 child) . On launch day,you’ll be able to participate in special launch day activities (such as astronaut appearances and launch briefings) plus listen and watch live NASA countdown audio and video on a jumbo-sized screen. Tickets can be purchased here BUT you’ll want to make sure to be added to KSC’s email list so you’ll know precisely when launch tickets go on sale.
My favorite way to view a launch is to go on a kayak tour… which is how I saw my first launch. After an easy, 2-mile paddle along Haulover Canal, you’ll float on Mosquito Lagoon to watch the launch with a completely unobstructed view. Even if the shuttle scrubs, you’ll still have had a wonderful outing on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I chose A Day Away Kayak Tours for my shuttle tour and I was totally blown away by the experience.
Lastly, you can find a park nearby Kennedy Space Center and listen to the launch countdown on the radio (90.7FM). Here are a few popular off-site launch viewing areas:
- Marina Park, 501 Marina Road, Titusville — Restrooms, parking
- Sand Point Park, 101 N. Washington Ave, Titusville — Restrooms, parking
- Space View Park, 8 Broad Street, Titusville — Parking nearby
- Manzo Park, 3335 S. Washington Ave (US 1), Titusville — Restrooms, parking
- Rotary Riverfront Park, 4141 S. Washington Ave (US 1), Titusville — Restrooms, parking
- Kennedy Point Park, 4915 S. Washington Ave (US 1), Titusville — Restrooms, parking
- Jetty Park, East end of Port Canaveral off George King Blvd. — Restrooms, parking
- Cocoa Beach Pier, 401 Meade Ave., Cocoa Beach — Restrooms, parking
- Alan Shepard Park, East end of SR 520, Cocoa Beach — Restrooms, parking
- Fischer Park, East side of SR A1A 1/2 mile south of SR 520 — Restrooms, parking
- Lori Wilson Park, 1500 N. Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach — Restrooms, parking
With so few launches left to view, NASA marks the end of an era of space exploration in which the US has blazed an important trail. Don’t miss the chance to see these last two historical flights into space.