Space center offers upgraded, 'Up Close' tour

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Kennedy Space Center visitors can now upgrade their experience to include a NASA Up Close tour that provides what the center's visitor complex officials call "an insider's view of America's space shuttle program from launch preparation to lift off."

The 90-minute tour is conducted by an authority on the space program and follows, at one point, the same route the astronauts take on launch day.

Other highlights include:

  • Space Shuttle Launch Pads 39 A and B. A close view of the structures offers an improved photo location featuring shots of the two pads side by side and the Atlantic Ocean in the background.
  • The NASA Press Site Launch Countdown Clock. It provides a good location for commemorative photos.
  • The Vehicle Assembly Building. This is the second-largest such building in the world, housing each space shuttle before it rolls out.
  • The Shuttle Landing Facility. This is the world's longest and widest landing strip.
  • The Crawler Transporter and Crawlerway. This 8 million-pound vehicle transports the shuttle to the launch pad.
  • The new NASA Up Close tours, which operate daily at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., are more in-depth than the standard tour, which includes a visit to the center's many exhibits and admission to a pair of Imax motion pictures as well as a regular bus tour that visits the LC-39 Observation Gantry, the Apollo/Saturn V Center and the International Space Station Center.

    Admission to the visitor complex is $24 for adults (defined as ages 12 and older) and $15 for children ages 3 to 11.

    Upgrading to the NASA Up Close tour costs an additional $20, making the total cost $44 for adults and $35 for children. Group rates are not offered for the tour.

    Reservations for the NASA Up Close tour can be made up to 30 days ahead by calling (321) 449-4444. Capacity for the tour is 50.

    However, a space center spokesman said that most of the tours do not reach that size.

    The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is open from 9 a.m. until dusk everyday except Christmas, and on certain launch days.

    The complex is a 45-minute drive east of Orlando.

    For more information, contact Alison Musarra, sales manager, at (321) 449-4241 or visit the Web site at www.kennedyspacecenter.com.

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