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Tue, Nov 08, 2011

NASA Opens VAB For First Time In Three Decades

Special Interest Tours Offered For A Limited Time At KSC

For more than 30 years, tour buses have driven guests past the 525-foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB, at Kennedy Space Center, pointing out the massive building in which Apollo V rockets, and later, space shuttles, were assembled for launch. But only a select few, including astronauts, NASA officials and space center personnel, have ever had the opportunity to go inside the building – until now.

For the first time since 1978, guests at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will have the chance to disembark their tour buses and tour inside the VAB to see firsthand where monstrous vehicles were assembled for launch, from the very first Saturn V rocket in the late 1960s to the very last space shuttle, STS-135 Atlantis, earlier this year.

The opportunity to visit the VAB will be offered for a limited time to a limited number of Visitor Complex guests per day as part of KSC Up-Close, a new two-hour, guided special interest tour. While inside the VAB, guests will be able to walk along the edge of the Transfer Aisle, which is kept open to move behemoth elements of rockets among the four High Bays within the building. Tour communicators will provide a brief overview of the VAB and the work done there.

Meanwhile, plenty of signage depicts the incredible engineering feats that have taken place behind these 456-foot-tall high bay doors, such as the work of the VAB's two 325-ton bridge cranes that were used to lift the shuttle orbiters and mate them to their external tank and solid rocket boosters with pinpoint accuracy. Signage also shows prospective operations that will take place within the VAB for NASA's newest space exploration program, Space Launch System, or SLS. Banners signed by thousands of KSC workers showing support for each of the space shuttle missions proudly remain on display throughout the VAB.

The VAB tour stop is just one part of the two-hour guided KSC Up-Close tour. During the first portion of the tour, guests will have the opportunity to view Kennedy Space Center landmarks including NASA's KSC Headquarters and the Operations & Checkout building (O&C). Next, guests may disembark at the NASA Causeway for a panoramic view of the Banana River, Port Canaveral and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, home of the first rocket launches of the Mercury and Gemini programs.

The tour then travels into the heart of Kennedy Space Center, where guests will pass by the three Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPFs), the hangars where shuttle orbiters were processed and maintained between flights. Following a stop inside the VAB, guests will re-board their bus for views of the massive Crawler Transporters and "Crawlerway," the equivalent of an eight-lane highway lined with river rock and designed to support the crushing weight of the Saturn V and space shuttles along with their mobile launch platforms. Guests will disembark at Camera Stop A/B – one of the hilltop sites from which NASA remotely shoots launch photography and videography with Launch Pads 39A and B on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.  The final stop is the Apollo/Saturn V Center, where dramatic multi-media shows and numerous hands-on displays provide visitors with an inspirational and exhilarating look into America's quest for the moon.

Beginning Nov. 1, the tour will be offered eight times daily for $25 for adults and $19 for children ages 3-11, plus the cost of admission which is $43 + tax for adults and $33 + tax for children ages 3-11.

Making this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity even more special, for a very limited time, guests on the KSC Up-Close tour may see a space shuttle orbiter inside the VAB as they are being prepared for display in their new homes in Los Angeles, CA, Washington, D.C. and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, FL.

FMI: www.kennedyspacecenter.com

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