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Orlando Nature Tour, Day 3

Exploring Canaveral Florida National Seashore, Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach

Here, at the end of your nature drive, you enjoy the Canaveral National Seashore, see the best of the NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center, and end up on the Cocoa Beach, Fla “strip," with an optional stop at the famous Ron Jon's Surf Shop.

You pass where the first NASA astronauts lived, have a chance to visit where humans first set off for the Moon, and enjoy the truly pristine beaches and natural areas of a great national seashore.

Because the it becomes so crowded later in the day, especially during school holidays, visit the space center first and then double back to enjoy the beaches of Cape Canaveral.

The directions to both Canaveral and the space center avoid entrances that are subject to frequent closures due to space flight activity and post 9/11 security concerns. This does not add much extra driving time.

Start off in Ormond Beach where day two ended. Allow one very full day or two days to see all described here.

Be sure to read about days one and two of this nature drive.

The NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center

From the Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach areas, drive south on Interstate 95.

At exit 79, take the well-signed road eastbound into the Kennedy Space Center.

After crossing the Intercoastal Waterway, the visitor complex comes up on your right, including its outdoor rocket displays.

A surprise for you: Admission is free.

In fact, nothing at the Cape Canaveral Space Center, including its guided tour, costs very much. American taxpayers have paid dearly for all that is around you.

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), the civilian agency charged with running most of the U.S. space program, depends on public support to promote its funding. Consequently, a “red carpet” is rolled out for visitors.

Always, NASA must defend its programs against those who say the money should go instead to fix America’s problems: the national debt, cancer, failing schools, substandard housing, etc. Opponents ignore the potential benefits of exploring space.

NASA works hard to impress us here.

An IMAX theatre projects the exhilaration of outer space, indoors and outdoor displays of space artifacts dazzle, and a gift shop of far more than usual interest beckons.

However, the big deals here are the Kennedy Space Center organized tours.

One highlights the former command center. “Failure is not an option.”

Another lets you see the launch sites along the Atlantic shore.

Often, you pass rockets being prepared for takeoff. Some launches continue, especially for military and intelligence purposes, in spite of funding cutbacks.

The space center becomes more and more crowded as the day goes on, especially during school holidays, so try to arrive as early as possible to avoid booked up tours.

Before visiting, you may wish to read Tom Wolfe’s fine book “The Right Stuff” about the early space program, or view the great movie of the same name. In addition, you may wish to watch the film “Apollo 13” before your trip, as this will deepen your experience of this place.

While here, you can’t help but think of the brave pioneers, including some who gave their lives, who have been here before you, as well as all the dedicated support staff who helped make the dream come true.

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