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Thursday, March 11, 2021

Apollo/Saturn V Center reopens at Kennedy Space Center following a year-long COVID-related closure

Posted By on Thu, Mar 11, 2021 at 11:14 AM

click to enlarge The Apollo/Saturn V Center - IMAGE VIA KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX
  • Image via Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
  • The Apollo/Saturn V Center

After a yearlong closure related to COVID-19, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex plans to reopen the Apollo/Saturn V Center this month. The Brevard County attraction reopened many of its exhibits last summer after a short closure, but kept the Apollo/Saturn V Center closed.

The Apollo/Saturn V Center is located 7.5 miles north of the main Visitors Center and must be accessed via shuttle bus. Multiple new safety protocols have been implemented in response to the ongoing pandemic while providing access to the Apollo/Saturn V Center.

Guests at the KSC Visitor Complex looking to visit the Apollo/Saturn V Center will have to make same-day reservations to ensure social distancing on the shuttle buses. Reservations can be made at kiosks near the bus transportation entrance. As with other locations within the Visitor Complex, face masks are required on the buses and at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Drivers will disinfect buses after each trip and will ensure social distancing on board.

Those who haven’t visited the Apollo/Saturn V Center recently are in for a surprise, as numerous improvements have been made throughout the 100,000-square-foot pavilion in recent years. A major multi-year remodel opened in 2019 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The updated center was completed just nine months before it was forced to close due to COVID-19.

click image The Moon Tree Garden at the Apollo/Saturn V Center - IMAGE VIA KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX
  • Image via Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
  • The Moon Tree Garden at the Apollo/Saturn V Center

Near where buses drop off visitors is a new Moon Tree Garden, where descendants from the original seeds that astronaut Stuart Roosa carried to the moon on Apollo 14 circle a bronze statue of the Apollo 11 crew. The entrance is designed to impress with a newly improved sense of arrival.

Inside, many of the popular exhibits that have called the Center home since its opening in 1997 remain, including the Grumman Lunar Lander No. 9, now lowered to ground level for easier viewing and circled with the front pages of newspapers reporting on the historic moon landing. The Saturn V rocket stretching the length of the main hall also remains, but it too was enhanced. The third stage of the rocket now hosts video projections of historical moments from the Apollo program. The Apollo 8 Firing Room experience, a visitor favorite, was also kept.

click to enlarge The Apollo/Saturn V Center. Image taken prior to COVID-19. - IMAGE VIA KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX
  • Image via Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
  • The Apollo/Saturn V Center. Image taken prior to COVID-19.

To help add context to the events that took place a half-century ago, a replica of a 1960s living room and bar have been installed. Other new exhibits include a focus on the Fisher Space Pen, an updated presentation for the Command Service Module, photo-ops that put guests that allow guests to follow in Neil Armstrong’s footsteps and virtual holograms of multiple astronauts. Finally, a focus on the future of space exploration and how each guest can help support those efforts brings a relevance that’s especially timely.

The Moon Rock Café will not reopen with the Center, but light snacks will be available for purchase at the gift shop. At the main Visitors Complex, an updated Milky Way Ice Cream Shop and Red Rock Grill opened in 2019.

click to enlarge Carnival's new $163 million space travel-themed Terminal 3 at Port Canaveral - IMAGE VIA PORT CANAVERAL
  • Image via Port Canaveral
  • Carnival's new $163 million space travel-themed Terminal 3 at Port Canaveral

Delaware North, which manages the KSC Visitors Complex, has invested millions into the Complex in recent years. As space travel becomes more commonplace around the globe, the role of KSC in leading that push, both from a historical perspective and as an active spaceport, has brought renewed interest to the center and its Visitors Complex. After the shuttle program ended, Brevard County feared it would harm its tourism industry, but an active launch schedule, thanks in part to numerous commercial rocket companies, has helped bring the tourists back. The county has leaned into its historic role in space travel, as witnessed in the space-themed cruise port recently built at Port Canaveral.

A new kids play area, an improved U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, an overhauled space-themed gift shop (the world's largest), and an updated entrance experience have all opened at the KSC Visitors Complex in recent years. The Complex is also home to the award-winning Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, where only one of three space shuttles that remain is on display.

Those interested in visiting are encouraged to plan ahead, as some attractions may be limited due to launches or other activities. Advance tickets are highly encouraged. Apollo/Saturn V Complex reservations are only available the day of visit. Access to the Apollo/Saturn V Complex is included with admission to the Visitors Complex.



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