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Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s ‘Then & Now’ Tour

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – Bill Blakeney knows a thing-or-two about the history of Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As a “communicator” with the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex – he has to. Blakeney is one of the tour guides that work to inform the 1.2 million guests that visit the Visitor Complex annually about the amazing history that they are walking through.

In terms of the “Then and Now Tour” – that history is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The launch pads that saw Alan B. Shepard become the first American to reach space and where the name John Glenn – became legend – are visited.

The facilities and block houses that were used during the heady days of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo are open to guests during this tour. There is a gift shop where one can pick up some nifty space souvenirs. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

 In fact, most of the historic locations and launch pads are stops on this tour. At some sites, only the block houses where scientists and engineers huddled during the fury of launch remain. At others, plaques and monuments honor the men that opened the door to the space age. 

Along the way guests are treated to the sight of the Redstone, Delta IV and a wide range of other launch vehicles. They also get to step inside the control centers and see the equipment that was used during the early days of space flight. 

“I’m very proud that we can pull back the historical curtains and allow the public see how this amazing place made the magic happen,” Blakeney said. “Folks get to hear a lot of things along the way, some of them funny, some of them sad – but all of them part of U.S. human space flight history. 

The tour will take guests to Launch Complex 34, where the crew of Apollo 1, Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives in a fire on the launch pad. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/awaltersphoto.com

The “Then & Now Tour” last for about three hours and departs from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at 12:50 p.m. daily (with some exceptions). The cost per ticket is $21 for adults and $15 for children under the age of 12 (plus tax). The tour is very comprehensive. Guests will get to see the launch pads that sent the first U.S. astronauts into space, Launch Complex 34, where the astronauts of Apollo 1, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives in a fire on the pad and the tour ends with a stop at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Once there they can marvel at the 363-foot long rocket that sent humans to another world, and touch an actual moon rock. The center is huge and has displays of all of the vehicles used on the Moon, a shop to buy souvenirs as well as a place to stop and get a bite to eat. 

Come prepared however, you need a government issued driver’s license or state identification card if you are a U.S. citizen aged 18 and older. For international guests (this includes children) you are required to have a valid passport and arrive at the Visitor Complex’s Information Counter 30 minutes prior to your tour. Also, please be aware, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is an active facility that launches rockets on almost a monthly basis (sometimes more) – please listen to your guide as to when and where you can take images or video.

For more information: www.kennedyspacecenter.com

The "Then & Now Tour" concludes at the Apollo / Saturn V Center. Be sure and go through the "firing room" presentation. It has a couple surprises that are not to be missed. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

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