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SamConnan_KennedySpaceCenter.JPGDisney/Pixar’s spring release of Mars Needs Moms had space authorities from NASA involved in its production! Looking to get insights into NASA’s role in the movie, KIDS FIRST! arranged for KF film critic Sam Connan to visit the Kennedy Space Center. Sam got a chance to explore some of what the movie’s young hero Milo goes through while learning what lies behind NASA’s interest in working with filmmakers.

Sam Connan at Kennedy Space Center

Hi. I’m Sam Connan, reporting from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, for KIDS FIRST!. The Kennedy Space Center is a wonderful way to spend the day if you want to get away from the amusement parks and get some science into your visit to Florida. I went there on business, but ended up having a wonderful time.

There’s a guided tour that you can take, and I highly recommend it. You get to see the real mission control for the Apollo mission, and a real Saturn Five rocket, as well as the launch pad itself. I personally didn’t get to see the launch pad because they were fueling up the shuttle Atlantis for the last flight in the manned space flight program. To find the guided tour, just go through the main building and go right. There’s usually a long line in front of a big tour bus.

Now I know that some young, aspiring astronauts are really bummed out because that’s the last manned rocket launch, but it isn’t. I talked to someone in the Exploration Space exhibit (an exhibit about the past and future of space exploration), and he assured me that NASA is going to initiate a new manned space program and they hope to have people on Mars by 2030. To find Exploration Space, just go straight past the main building to the picnic benches and then go to your left and there’s a big sign.

There is a shuttle launch simulator, which is very cool. They kind of scare you in the “Mission Briefing,” saying that it’s like you’re in a tin can that can be squished at any moment, and that the rocket’s going to tip forwards, and that it feels like an elephant is sitting on you because of the G-force, etc., but it’s not that bad. It’s actually fun. However, you do go directly vertical, so if you do have any of the conditions that they mention in the warnings, you’ll want to pay attention to that. To find the shuttle launch simulator, just look for a big building with a bunch of ramps on the side next to a life-sized space shuttle.

NASA will sometimes get involved with movies. Now I know what you’re thinking: “What could the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have to do with making movies?” Well, they can do one of two things: First, if someone is making a space movie and wants to work on the space center, or second, the people making the movie just want to be as realistic as possible, so they’ll ask NASA some questions about whatever it is they need to know about. NASA worked on the recent Disney/Pixar film “Mars Needs Moms,” and I expect that they did the second thing — helped to make the movie as realistic as possible.

There is also the Rocket Garden, a large courtyard with about twenty rockets and capsules. To find it, just go in the main entrance and go all the way to the left; it’s hard to miss.

As a completing factor of your Space Center experience, you’ll want to check out the I-Max theater, where there are two informational movies continuously playing every day.

All in all, I loved my experience at the Kennedy Space Center, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to have an informational but fun time.

Photo: KIDS FIRST! film critic Sam Connan turns astronaut at Kennedy Space Center.

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