Anybody been to a space shuttle launch?

My boyfriend has decided recently that he really wants to see a space shuttle launch before they shelve them after this year. Have anybody been to a space shuttle launch before? Did you enjoy it? Is it just waiting around for hours on end? What else is around the Kennedy Space Center?

We haven’t even started planning yet, and we haven’t done much research. Any ideas about what we need to see? What should we be avoiding? If it helps, we like good food of any type although we are on a budget. We generally like museums, books, science stuff, hiking, and anything unique to Florida, but all quirky suggestions are welcome. We’re both in our mid-20’s.

We won’t be able to make the ones in March, but they have one in July and one final one in September. We’re not sure yet which one we’ll be going to or even how long we’ll be visiting, but those will probably be determined by our budget. The boyfriend has suggested that he wouldn’t mind just flying in for the launch and then leaving but I’d prefer to spend at least a few days there.

Your biggest problem is going to be that they are forever delayed. If it is a MASSIVE deal to both of you then basically you guys need to move to Florida for six months. I’m not exaggerating here - I think there’s only three left and that kind of delay is certainly not beyond the realms of probability.

Main thing to remember is that there are delays so don’t count on it going up the time scheduled. Delays can be for weather or technical problems. The space center tours are nice and of course Disney World is close by in Orlando. Also in Orlando are Sea World and Universal theme parks so if you can’t see the shuttle go up there is a lot to see in that area. And there is always the nearby beaches.

I was afraid of that. I mentioned that to him before, but he just seemed so eager, I hate to crush his dreams. Any visual effects jobs open around there in the next 6 months? :stuck_out_tongue:

A Florida trip isn’t off the tables yet, but we’ll keep our expectations low for the shuttle launch. It might be nice to just visit the Kennedy Space Center. What other big things could we center our trip around?

Is Disney World or any of the other parks significantly different enough from the Southern Californian ones for us Californians to justify making a trip?

Lived in Florida for twenty years, and have seen MANY shuttle and rocket launches. Traffic around launch time is a nightmare. You should expect to get there a couple or so hours before the launch is scheduled to go up, or you could get stuck in traffic just getting there. You’ll need special passes to get to the primo seats; A LOT of people pull over on the side of the roads and watch from there.

One thing to do is to get an ocean-view hotel room up in north Cocoa Beach and see it from there (especially if it’s a night launch). Less traffic, and less hassle if it doesn’t go up. If this isn’t an option and you’re not familiar with the area, get there a day or so early and go scope out a spot to watch the launch so you know where you’re going.

Not sure if the parks are that different from the ones in CA but if you go all that way you should probably do something else if the launch is delayed and those parks are a good option. I know some of the Disney rides are similar to CA but Orlando has 4 Disney parks vs. 1 in CA. The other 3 in FL are Animal Kingdom, EPCOT and Disney/MGM Studios. Tampa has Busch Gardens which has a lot of big coasters.

If you are into national parks the Everglades are very nice but they are not as close, they are down near Miami.

No, but I’ve driven all the way across florida to watch them scrub one!

I saw a launch last fall while on a trip to Titusville. Pretty clear day launch.
There is a small museum complex but not a whole lot in the area besides space stuff.

It is terrific to actually be near when the shuttle launches; the palpable noise cannot be duplicated on TV.

A night launch is spectacular from many miles away on a clear night.

The whole thing is a crapshoot for NASA delays and weather delays. There are only certain launch windows so if you plan on one window and can’t wait for the next it can be a bummer.

Finally, the cloud cover can make a difference. You can only see it as far as the cloud ceiling.

Being an old fart, I saw one of the Apollo launches. Launches are pretty cool and worth seeing if the opportunity is there.

And Disney World is much larger than Disneyland (including physically - 30,500 acres vs 180 acres). Disneyland is essentially the same as Disney World’s Magic Kingdom park. But Disney World has several other major parks and attractions which Disneyland does not.

I saw the very first launch from just across the lake in Titusville. Then I saw so many I lost count. Never jaded, tho, I watched nearly every launch that occurred from 1993-1996 (I lived in St. Cloud/Kissimmee at the time).

The Ocala National Forest is just north of Orlando, and I can highly recommend both Juniper Springs and Silver Springs as beautiful, fun places worthy of your time. Swimming, canoing & kayaking, hiking, fishing, wildlife, biking, off-roading and more just 60 minutes (or so) from DW. Speaking as someone who has thru-hiked from north to south in the Ocala, I can tell you that there is plenty to do and see (just ffs don’t drink the water at Hopkins’ Prairie).

I lived in Titusville for 30 years and worked at Cape Canaveral AFS for a few years as well, so anything I say about the quality of the local entertainment is biased. But I’ll echo what others have said about delays; I feel bad for people that came from hundreds/thousands of miles away only to get their launch-watching scrubbed.

As an alternative, the unmanned launches are pretty cool, too (Delta, Atlas, etc). If you can secure a car pass to one of those launches, you’ll be able to get much closer to the launch pad. Generally, unmanned launches have fewer delays, too.

Nitpick: it is the Indian River that separates Titusville from Kennedy Space Center, not a lake (bonus trivia: the Banana River separates KSC from Cape Canaveral AFS, except for a strip of land at the north).

Thanks to everyone who responded. I talked it over with the boyfriend yesterday and he seemed disappointed, but the suggestions have been great. From what you’re all saying, it might be better to visit the Kennedy Space Center when it wouldn’t be so crowded anyway. Ocala looks beautiful and it’s definitely different from the forests we have here in California. The other Disney parks look like they could be fun as well.

Without the shuttle schedule pushing us forward, we probably won’t make it this year since we have several other trips to make (weddings, etc). I’m writing down all the suggestions though and we’ll make it to Florida eventually. Thanks again everyone.

I took my mother to the launch that John Glenn went up in.

I will tell you right now, that weekend still stands as one of the COOLEST things I have ever done in my life. I highly recommend it if you are at all into the space thing.

We stayed in this very small and simple, but nice, hotel on A1A in Cocoa Beach, which is IIRC about 15 miles away from Kennedy Space Center. And that was *plenty *close enough. The ground shook where we were. We checked in late, so they’d given our room away and gave us the honeymoon suite instead. Which would have been awesome except I was with my mom, so it wasn’t romantic. Our room opened out on to a viewing deck which faced the ocean.

All we had to do was step out of our room to the deck and listen for the countdown (other people had radios and such so we could hear it).

It was A-friggin-mazing. Really. Incredible experience.

I could have just turned around and gone home, but it turns out I could have spent another two or three days just touring the KSC. It’s huge and there’s tons of stuff to do inside the space center. I did not get to see everything on the tour and probably missed about half of what I wanted to see. The space center is very near Merritt Island and Cocoa Beach and if you’re into Florida beaches, bars, restaurants, clubs, and shopping… (oh and golf, probably) then you’ll be golden. You could spend a week in the area and not get bored. Even if you do get bored, Orlando/Disney and all that Disney crap is a mere 45 minutes away. Daytona is maybe a half hour away. Plenty to see/do/eat.

The only regret I have is not ever getting to attend a night launch. That would be sweet.

Only drawbacks I can think of is if the weather acts up for whatever reason and they scrap the launch for that day… be sure to allow yourself a few days in the area in case that happens so you don’t miss the reschedule.

Missed edit window:

July and September are both during hurricane season and September is peak hurricane season. Best chances of weather scrubbing a launch in Sept.

I wouldn’t stop in Ocala except to get gas. It is beautiful, but really there’s nothing there except John Travolta, a bunch of horse farms and… maybe some strip malls. I would never scrap Cocoa Beach/Daytona/Cape Canaveral for Ocala. YMMV, I guess, but I read this thread and thought… Ocala? Why? Good Lord, why?

Why don’t you look into staying in Cocoa Beach to avoid all the crowds and traffic? Way more fun than Ocala, IMO… (And I’m into hiking/camping/canoeing, etc. Still. Ocala?)

2 launch vet here. Here’s the scoop. The closest you can get to the launch pad is the Causeway at KSC. To do that, you need to get launch day tickets. To do that you have to get on the mailing list - they will let you know when the $54 tickets go on sale. Go to the KSC website and sign up.

The ticket gets you and your car admission into the KSC and a bus to the causewaya couple of hours prior to launch. Should the launch be scrubbed, your ticket is still good UNLESS you are already on the bus or on the causeway in which case you are out of luck.

I will say that both my launches were pushed back 4 days - luckily I had a window of a week and I have family in Palm Coast which is about an hour from the cape.

Here is a real good site that gave me a ton of info including how to photograph a launch which is why I really went in the first place:

I looked into the launch delays and here’s a in-depth pdf from CBS if anyone’s interested. The possibility of an on-time launch looks about 50% or less in recent years, but delays were only about a few days on average. What worries me is the month-long delays in the last two years. Plus, what Dogzilla said about hurricane season.

Thank you for that website link MrFloppy, as it happens, the boyfriend is an amateur photographer. The tickets look pricey and the whole hassle with getting to the space center and dealing with traffic makes Cocoa Beach seem more attractive.

Anybody have a hotel recommendation for Cocoa Beach?

If the OP (or anyone else) wants to see a night launch (which are far more impressive) and doesn’t have an emotional attachment to the Shuttle, take a look at the Atlas V and Delta II/IV on the launch schedule. They’re not quite as bit, but you can probably get closer, and they are far more likely to be on time than the mercurial Shuttle.


Yes, many times, because I live in Central Florida. When I lived in my house, I could see them while sitting on my couch looking out the window. I’m about 45 miles away from the Cape, and it’s still cool looking. I’ve driven over there to see a few, too. The best ones were at night, but I guess there will be no more of them. The last time I went over there–approximately last August or September–the launch was scrubbed and we had to sit in traffic forever to get back.

I’ve wanted to see one ever since my dad woke me up to make me watch the first one as a HS senior.

Scheduling and life never coincided to allow me to see one until June of 2007.
We spend a couple of weeks in Ponte Vedra every June, and we arrived in PV just after noon.
Mrs. didn’t want to go, :rolleyes: so I took the kids the extra 2 hours south to see what we could see.

Like a rube, I just got into town and wandered over to the east. I happened upon a fire department, and pulled up to some firemen, knowing that the red lights on my dash would get me some “inside” information from the guys. I asked where we could go, & they pointed out that we’re about 2 blocks away from the waterway, and we should head for “that grass over there”. We parked in a small parking lot at the corner of Palmetto and Indian River Ave.

We walked across IRA, but the “grass” turned out to be someone’s yard. While standing there wondering where else we could go, the homeowner called to us from their deck. We chatted a moment, and told them our situation, and they invited us to set up in their back yard, just feet from the water, and 12 miles as the crow flies from pad 39A. The closest you can get without being out on the cape.

Luckily, Atlantis lifted off right on time, and we got great pictures and video, and a great story.

If the family isn’t there to invite you in, at least you can see the launch from the parking lot on Indian River.

Just don’t sneak behind the house - that would be wrong!
Good Luck!

I was a member of the Press at the first launch of the Space Shuttle STS-1 on April 12, 1981. My Press pass is one of my most treasured souvenirs.