Ripubblico integralmente di seguito, con il permesso dell’autore, un messaggio inviato il 13 luglio 2007 da Jim McDade, fondatore della mailing list SpaceADG, alla lista ProjectApollo. Racconta l’esperienza di Jim con Shuttle Launch Experience, la nuova attrazione per il pubblico inaugurata qualche mese fa al KSC. La sua opinione diversa dall’entusiasmo generale, e la sua competenza in campo spaziale, possono essere utili a chi pianifica una visita al KSC.
Delaware North (DN) spent a fortune on the 44,000-square-foot Shuttle Launch Experience (SLE) "thrill-ride" located at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. DN enjoys a cost-plus contract to provide visitor services at KSC. Delaware North spent and astounding $60 million on the 44,000 sq-ft Shuttle Launch Experience. Can you imagine some more worthy projects at KSC other than a thrill-ride? I can.
The visitor’s center, seemingly hell-bent to transform KSC into Disney
World East, could have used some of that money to simultaneously
entertain and educate the public while preserving some of the major
pieces of US and global heritage now decaying at KSC/CCAFS.
That $60 million could have done more than just restore the now lost
Apollo LUT. There probably been enough leftover from $60 million after
restoring the LUT to build a convincing vertical Saturn V replica to
mount alongside the LUT. I am certain that A well-done LUT-Saturn V
exhibit could have easily been the center’s #1 tourist draw.
DN obviously decided that it was better for the company to build what
amounts to an enlarged and upgraded version of the old “launch
experience”, tilting-platforms formerly found at the USSRC and the
Astronaut Hall of Fame.
The SLE entrance is comprised of a Disney-like cue management maze
equipped with video displays showing paid, former-astronauts verbally
endorsing the SLE. Prior to entering the SLE, visitors are required to
store all loose articles in lockers adjacent to the cue entry. Bring a
25-cent piece. You will need a quarter to open a locker. You get the
quarter back after the ride.
In true Disney fashion, visitors are herded into a large,
standing-room before the attraction doors open into the faux-Shuttle
passenger module. Visitors must endure a final endorsement/warning
video before passing through the automatic doors that lead to rows of
high-back seats that are equipped with seat-belts. The astronaut hype
continues on the viewing screen located at the front of the passenger
module. A very low-fidelity mock-up of the Shuttle Orbiter forward
cargo bay and airlock module is located in front of the passenger
seats. The video screen displays a graphic showing the passenger
module location in the forward cargo bay.
Riders are shown how the entire room will tilt about 90-degrees
rearward so that passengers will be sitting flat on their backs just
like the real astronauts prior to launch. Woooo! A faux, condensed
countdown commences. When the SSMEs “ignite”, the room tilts forward
to gently simulate the rougher “twang” of a real Shuttle launch. Next,
the SRBs ignite. The twang move is reversed and the launch sounds grow
louder as the room shakes back and forth along the X-axis. Liftoff!
The shaking is rigorous enough to blur your vision a bit, but you are
still able to read the giant vehicle display readouts.
The shaking varies through throttle-down, throttle-up, MAX-Q and then
smooths out following SRB sep. The room tilts forward at MECO in order
to simulate eyeballs-out. That’s it. Ride over. Please retrive your
personal items and exit now.
This thrill-ride is not a threat to any of the Six Flags roller
coasters or those the up-and-down negative-G, drop-tower rides. It is
merely a very expensive upgrade of the old tilting-room launch
experience rides that have been around for years at Space Camp and
If you want to avoid paying $40 to $50 for the SLE “thrill”, find an
old, high-back dining room table from a 1970s Mediterranean-style
dining set. Sit in the chair and have a partner lower you onto you
back so tat you are resting with your back parallel to the floor…
Next, have your partner preform a countdown and scream into your ear
while pitching the chair back and forth in the appropriate launch
sequence. Don’t forget to have them shake the chair in a manner and
sequence consistent with a real launch.
In summary, it is too bad that DN is more interested in selling
thrill-ride tickets as opposed to acting as an educator and curator at
KSC. I give this ride 2 stars out of a possible 5. Don’t go out of
your way for this one. Ride it if you happen to be there.
PS- The fake Apollo 11 LM used to portray the Tranquility Base
experience at the Saturn V Center was broken last week. It was sitting
inert on the stage. The DN employee there asked the audience to
pretend that the LM was coming in for a landing, and later to pretend
that the ascent stage was launching. In addition, the 1201-1202
pre-landing alarm situation was overly dramatized in the presentation.
The Saturn V Center videos and exhibits, including “shuttle
replacement Venture Star” are badly dated. The first video, a history
of space exploration from Sputnik forward, never even mentioned
Explorer I! The MILA’s restaurant and the Orbit restaurant were
tremendously crowded and slow to serve. Numerous verbal complaints
from guests were overheard. Orbit had one (1) cashier on-duty! Wait
times for food and drink were 45 minutes plus. Ridiculous and
aggravating. In spite of our terrible thirst and hunger, we finally
gave up on a KSC lunch and postponed eating until after our visit.
With such poor service and overall mismanagement of an important
facility, it is no wonder to me that DN was booted out in other
places, such as the Birmingham Turf Club (horse track).
Thanks, Jim McDade