« More ways to burn off dessert on Royal Princess | Main | 5 weekend getaways from Miami »

The public gets close-up views of space shuttles and a launch pad

For space geeks like me, 2012 is a great year for getting a close look at space equipment. The orbiter Enterprise went on display in New York this week, and for the first time, the public can tour some previously closed areas of Kennedy Space Center.

On Friday, NASA took visitors within the perimeter fence for the first public tour of Launch Pad 39-A (pictured above), from which most space shuttle and Apollo missions were launched.

The launch pad tour, which will continue at least through the end of the year, is the newest of NASA’s up-close tours at KSC. Last month, NASA launched tours of the Launch Control Center; last November, it allowed visitors inside the Vehicle Assembly Building for the first time in more than 30 years.

Click here to read my story on two of the tours; the launch pad tour was added after the Travel section went to press.

On the launch pad tour, visitors can get off the bus and see service structures and other facilities at 39-A. The tour then drives by Launch Pad 39-B, where Saturn 1B/Skylab missions and some space shuttle missions were launched. 39-B is now being modernized and will launch NASA’s new heavy-lift rockets that will carry astronauts into deep space; the first unmanned launch could happen as early as 2017.

The three close-up tours cost $25 each, in addition to KSC admission. Click here for more information on the tours.

148780646In New York, the new Space Shuttle Pavilion at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, pictured at left, opened on Thursday, featuring Enterprise, which was not built for orbital space flight and was an atmospheric test orbiter.

Space Shuttle Discovery is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Endeavour is being prepared for exhibition and in September is scheduled to move from Kennedy Space Center to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Atlantis renderingThe youngest shuttle, Atlantis, will go on display at KSC next summer and will be the centerpiece of a permanent exhibit on space travel, for which a building is under construction. Pictured here is a rendering of the exhibition hall. Currently Atlantis can be seen during a tour of the Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC.

Photos and rendering by NASA/Kennedy Space Center.