Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hop the Bus for Pad 39A!

The above image is an aerial view of Launch Pad 39A (in the foreground) and 39B (in the background). Image Credit: NASA/Cory Huston

All aboard! For a limited time, NASA has opened for touring the launch pad that saw the start of the first manned moon landing mission (as Apollo 11) and the start of the last Space Shuttle flight (aboard Atlantis).

Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida is the latest, limited-time tour stop being offered by the NASA spaceport's visitor complex. The tours — which also include separate trips to KSC's 52-story tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and the Launch Control Center (LCC) — are now being offered as part of the center's 50th anniversary celebration.

Pad 39A was one of two launch complexes built in the 1960s to support the Saturn V launches to the moon, Saturn IB launches to the Skylab space station and space shuttle launches to deploy and service satellites and build the International Space Station.

Pad 39A's twin, Pad 39B, was stripped of its launch support towers last year to make way for possible future commercial and government launch vehicles. Pad 39A, which supported 92 launches since November 1967 — 12 Saturn V rockets and 80 shuttles — is being maintained to support NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift next generation booster now being developed.

The current downtime between launches has allowed the opportunity for the visitor complex to bring guests closer to the launch pad than ever before.

What You Get

In the new "KSC Up-Close: Launch Pad Tour," guests bus from the visitor complex to Pad 39A, following alongside the same river stone-lined "crawlerway" that rockets and shuttles once slowly rumbled across riding atop massive tank-like transporters. Previous bus tours drove this same path but then veered off to circle the security fence that surrounds the launch pad. The guards stationed at the pad will wave the bus forward, permitting the tour to proceed almost a quarter-mile (400 meters) within the pad's perimeter. Near the pad, visitors will be able to exit the bus for photo opportunities, including close-up views of the 350-foot high (107-meter) fixed service structure (FSS), rotating service structure (RSS), propellant and water tanks, flame trench and other aspects of the launch pad complex. The buses will then continue onward for drive-by views of Pad 39B, the Vehicle Assembly Building and the mobile launch platforms that moved between the VAB and pads. The tour culminates at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, where one of three remaining moon rockets is on display.

The launch pad tour is offered twice daily and takes about two hours to complete. The tour runs $25 USD for adults and $19 USD for children ages 3 to 11, plus tax, in addition to general admission to the KSC visitor complex. The pricing matches tickets for the earlier announced VAB and Launch Control Center tours.

The VAB tour, which provides visitors the chance to enter the voluminous buildingwhere Saturn rocket stages were stacked and shuttles were assembled for launch, currently offers guests a limited chance to view the space shuttle Atlantis parked inside one of its high bays. In November 2, Atlantis will be moved to the visitor complex for its permanent display.

For more about the Launch Pad Tour and the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center, visit .


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