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Arts & Culture

Live Active Cultures: Space Shuttle Atlantis is now open

Kennedy Space Center’s new exhibit is unexpectedly emotional

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Once you’ve overcome the awe of seeing a spaceship face-to-face, the facility offers three floors of edutainment, starting with full-scale clones of the Hubble telescope and shuttle cockpit and continuing with a variety of hands-on activities that both kids and adults can appreciate.

Highlights include a mock section of the International Space Station to shimmy through sans shoes, including a clear acrylic tube suspended several stories above the floor below; video game-style simulators that let you land the shuttle or manipulate robotic arms; and an interactive tutorial on taking care of business in zero-G, complete with camera-equipped commode – a view most have probably never seen before. The Shuttle Launch Experience, introduced in 2007, has also been integrated into the new exhibit; as a stand-alone attraction, the simulator underwhelmed in comparison to Epcot’s Mission: SPACE, but it now makes a fitting finale to an informative and unexpectedly emotional experience.

KSC’s Atlantis exhibit is as engaging and well-executed as anything Disney offers, but the facility as a whole (which is privately owned, not taxpayer-funded) could take some lessons on customer service from Orlando’s parks. The recently relocated entry plaza is classy (especially the JFK memorial fountain) but lacks the flair of the former’s spacemen statues, and food service is pricey and inefficient. Worse, the hyped new “Angry Birds Space” exhibit is a cheap, ugly advertisement with minimal entertainment or educational value. If KSC keeps expanding, it needs more attractions like Atlantis and fewer feathered iPads.

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