How We Celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11’s Landing on the Moon

We never timed a family vacation so perfectly.

Photo: Original Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Module

Just four nights in Orlando with tickets to Sea World, Universal Studios and Kennedy Space Center meant we would be running from park to park nonstop, and we did. But the most amazing moment was when we learned that Endeavor’s launch had been rescheduled for July 15, a day after we were to arrive in town! (See my previous post for details on that.)

Photo: Launch Pad 39A

And then, to visit Kennedy Space Center just two days before the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon transformed a typical vacation into one we would never again experience in our lives. Our day at Cape Canaveral turned out to be more fun than Sea World and Universal Studios combined. We took the bus tour, climbed atop the viewing tower to see pad 39A (where Endeavor launched from) and watched a super cool movie in the old control room, which featured the launch of an early rocket, complete with original audio, control panels that lit up to authenticate what the control room looked like during the launch, and an amazingly loud, window-shaking reproduction of the actual launch.

Photo: Original NASA control room before the show.

Photo: Original NASA control room during the show.

Then, we walked underneath an Apollo rocket strapped to the ceiling of a very long building (check out the photo of its engines), and watched another very cool movie about the Apollo 11 moon landing. This presentation also incorporated original audio and video footage from July 20, 1969, and featured a landing pod and astronaut prop standing next to an American flag planted into the moon’s surface. I admit, the writers of this presentation got me. I felt what may have been the same emotions people all over the world experienced as they listened to the landing report on their AM radios. Truly unbelievable!

Photo: Check out the size of these Saturn V engines — and there are 5 of them!

Photo: Back of Saturn V rocket.

Photo: Middle of the Saturn V rocket, where the third stage is located.

Photo: The world’s largest building: the Vehicle Assembly Building. This is where the shuttles are assembled. Three empire state buildings can fit in there!

Five T-shirts, a handful of Apollo 11 commemorative Christmas ornaments, two robotic hands, 6 ounces of Galactic Ooze, a moon rock, a 500-piece NASA puzzle and a package of astronaut ice cream later, we exited Kennedy Space Center $183 poorer, but rich with awe-inspiring experiences and memories of NASA’s many accomplishments.

Photo: We had to get one of these for each of the kids!

I do hope our next space adventure will be a rendezvous with history. We walked on the moon 40 years ago. Why shouldn’t we attempt this again? The incredulous among us have only to look at the giant leap Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and many other astronauts took for mankind.

Photo: The cockpit of Shuttle Explorer

Photo: Exterior of Shuttle Explorer

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