A pyrotechnics display lit up the sky November 11 at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida above the new Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame presented by Boeing, marking the opening of the new attraction designed by Falcon’s Creative Group.
The opening ceremony was attended by more than 25 veteran and current NASA astronauts, including Gemini and Apollo space program astronauts Buzz Aldrin, James Lovell and Thomas Stafford. They were joined by the adult children of the late-astronauts Alan Shepard and Neil Armstrong, as well as representatives from NASA, The Boeing Company and Delaware North.
Hundreds of park guests also attended the ceremony, which was held on Veterans Day to honor all military heroes, including the many astronauts who are also military veterans.
Designed to be the first stop upon entering Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Heroes & Legends uses the early years of the space program to explore the concept of heroism, and the qualities that define the individuals who inspired their generation. The 37,000-square-foot, retro-fitted building marries cutting-edge technology with mesmerizing special effects, priceless artifacts and thought-provoking exhibits.
“The opening of Heroes & Legends today marks a true milestone for Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex,” said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer. “And it is such an honor to have so many astronaut heroes here with us to share in the celebration. We are so grateful that they can personally experience this living tribute to their sacrifices, determination and achievements.
“Heroes & Legends offers the opportunity to learn about the amazing attributes of our heroes behind the transformative and historical events that have shaped the way we look at space, the world and the future. It will not only entertain and inspire guests, but lay the groundwork for their interactions throughout the other amazing attractions to create memorable space experiences,” Protze said.
Through engaging storytelling, guests embark on an awe-inspiring journey through Heroes & Legends that begins with an immersive exhibit designed to spark thought and discussion about how society defines a hero. Cutting-edge technology, interactive elements and engaging exhibits work together to introduce visitors to the heroes of the NASA space program: the pioneers who made space exploration possible.
The deliberate architectural design for the new building is meant to celebrate spacecraft throughout history and into the future, and features a 30-by-40-foot bas-relief sculpture of the seven Mercury astronauts on its facade. A sweeping ramp entrance simulates the journey to the stars, and features an elevated slingshot path through the Rocket Garden.
Heroes & Legends is separated into three distinct experiences, plus the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame:
In the 360-degree discovery bay, What is a Hero?, guests explore how society defines heroism through diverse perspectives. Each examination of heroism starts with the following questions: What is a hero; Who are the heroes of our time; and What does it take to be a hero? During the seven-minute presentation, the historic beginning of the space race is acknowledged as the impetus for America’s push to the stars in NASA’s early years and the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Through the Eyes of a Hero is a custom-built theater featuring a multisensory 4-D experience during which guests vicariously join NASA’s heroes and legends on the most perilous stages of their missions. Artistically choreographed lighting and special effects are enhanced by sound effects and surrounding images to create the sensation of being “in the moment.” The seven-and-a-half-minute show takes guests on an intimate journey with four space-age heroes – Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and James Lovell – to fully immerse them in the awe, excitement and dangers of the first crewed space program missions.
The third experience, A Hero Is…, offers interactive exhibits that highlight the nine different attributes of our history-making astronauts: inspired, curious, passionate, tenacious, disciplined, confident, courageous, principled and selfless. Through the use of holograms and augmented reality, visitors will be able to interact with space program artifacts in a way never before possible.
A collection of nine exhibit modules explores each aforementioned attribute through the actual experiences of NASA’s astronauts and memorabilia. Their stories are enhanced with real artifacts from the astronaut and the space program, including a Gemini IX capsule featuring a realistic projection of astronaut Gene Cernan climbing out of the tiny spacecraft. Other interactive features inspire further exploration of the original Mercury Mission Control room consoles, with a periodic flashback to the tense moments preceding the landing of Freedom 7 by astronaut John Glenn. Rounding out the collection of authentic artifacts is a Sigma 7 Mercury spacecraft, which is paired with a Mercury-Redstone rocket, and Gus Grissom’s Mercury spaceflight suit.
The culminating exhibit of Heroes & Legends is the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Housed under a rotunda, the exhibit intimately connects the visitor to each of the nearly 100 astronaut inductees through the use of state-of-the-art interactive technology. A signature element of the experience is the ability to capture a memento: a special photo opportunity that allows guests to pose with one of the Mercury astronaut heroes and legends.
“The goal is for visitors to leave both attractions with a renewed sense of pride and a more in-depth understanding and appreciation of the qualities of heroism represented by NASA’s pioneering astronauts, and why they deserve admiration and respect,” Protze said.
Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® presented Boeing was developed in collaboration with NASA by Delaware North, one of the largest privately-held hospitality companies in the world. Delaware North has operated Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for NASA since 1995, also developing Space Shuttle Atlantis®, the Apollo/Saturn V Center and other attractions at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The facility is completely funded by ticket sales, with no contributions from taxpayer dollars.
For more information or to book a visit, go to www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.