Although it celebrates some of the greatest rides in the world — in the universe, in fact — Kennedy Space Center Center Visitor Complex isn’t quite a theme park. But the privately run entertainment arm of the space launch facility offers attractions that entertain and educate — it even has its own version of character meet-and-greets, but with veteran astronauts — so it’s not too far a stretch to include it in a theme park round-up.
The Kennedy visitor complex is adding two new attractions this year. Cosmic Quest, a series of subversively educational video adventures that target 8- to 12-year-olds, kicked off in February. And Heroes and Legends, a high-tech, theatrical attraction that will incorporate the relocated Astronaut Hall of Fame, will open late this year.
91Astronauts in the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame; two more will be inducted May 14
In Cosmic Quest, guests can choose from five video adventures: Assemble a team for a rocket launch; build a research base on Mars; build a permanent colony on Mars; command a robotic spacecraft as it redirects an asteroid; or do experiments on the International Space Station.
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Cosmic Quest takes real NASA missions, “boils down the science and gives kids a real life experience,” said Andrea Farmer, public relations manager for the visitors complex. “By using game play, it makes a real rich experience. It’s geared to kids, but for adults it’s a challenge as well.”
Cost is $24.95 (in addition to admission to the space center) but is good for a year with no limit on how many times a visitor can do each adventure.
Heroes and Legends, being built on the site of the former Early Space Exploration building, will be the first stop on a tour of the visitor complex and will focus on astronauts and courage. “It begs the questions ‘What is a hero?’ ‘Who are our heroes?’ ‘What does it take to be a hero?’ ” Farmer said.
The first element is a 3-D omnidirectional theater, where guests will be surrounded by space imagery. It is designed to make guests feel like they’re flying, Farmer said. It will have vignettes with four of the country’s most honored astronauts: Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Jim Lovell and Neil Armstrong.
The next part is a series of pods in which people learn about nine characteristics of a hero — such as courage, tenacity and passion — and hear astronauts talk about those characteristics and their own heroes. The third major element is an updated version of the old Astronaut Hall of Fame, which is being moved from its former location six miles from the space center into the new Heroes and Legends building. Artifacts from the space program, including Mercury and Gemini spacecraft, will also be on display.
Heroes and Legends will be included in admission to the visitors complex.