It has been 50 years since people have felt the ground shake as a mammoth 363-foot-tall rocket came to life and hurled men and machine to the moon. It’s an experience you will never forget and it’s about to happen again.
Back then, it was the Saturn V rocket that landed men on the moon. Today, it’s the Space Launch System (SLS) and it is poised to rocket skyward for the first time on November 14, 2022, from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Merritt Island. Part of the Artemis program, it’s a once in a lifetime, heart-pounding experience that shouldn’t be missed. Here’s how to catch it:
FYI, these tips are applicable for future Artemis launches as well.
What Is Artemis?
In Greek mythology, Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo, the goddess of the moon. It’s a perfect name for mankind’s return to the moon, if there ever was one. There’s a three-step process to land humans on the moon again.
The first is testing the SLS rocket and the Orion capsule without humans on-board. That is Artemis I that will launch on November 14. Following that, the next two launches will be manned on Artemis II, orbiting humans around the moon, and Artemis III, landing them on the moon. The dates for the Artemis II and III flights will be announced after the November launch.
The Ultimate Launch Experience
Residents around the space center are getting ready for the rumble and roar of the SLS. It’s guaranteed to shake the ground and rattle windows. Being at the space center is the ultimate location for viewing the launch and feeling the power.
KSC offers three-ticket packages to view the launch. All prices are per person and do not include taxes. All packages include 2-day admission to the visitor center.
Main Visitor Viewing For $99:
- Eight miles from the launch pad in the visitor center’s Rocket Garden or parking area
- Includes commemorative launch lithograph
Feel The Fun For $149:
- Eight miles from the launch pad on the lawn surrounding the space shuttle Atlantis exhibit building
- Special family activities
- Real-time launch video and audio feed with live commentary to keep you up to date on launch preparations and the Artemis program
- Complimentary meal
- Complimentary souvenir, badge, and lanyard
- Digital photo of you and your friends at the launch from Astrophotos
Feel The Heat For $250:
- The absolute best viewing area, only 3.5 miles away with no obstructions
- Everything included in Feel The Fun as well as bus transportation to the viewing area
Get Those Tickets Now
Getting tickets is the tricky part. With this many people wanting to see the launch, the website crashed for a few minutes when it first went live.
Tickets must be purchased in advance. There are no day-of sales. Purchase your package online or call (855)-433-4210 and select the “Special Events” option.
Be patient and wait. If ordering online, don’t refresh your screen or you will lose your place in line.
And speaking of tickets, your ticket says that it is only good for two launch attempts. But if the launch is canceled two times, NASA is very generous and allows you to use your ticket for the next (third) attempt.
For an additional $15, NASA offers VIP parking. Simply show your receipt for purchase to the parking attendant and you will get parking very close to the main entrance of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. It’s well worth it.
Any freebies such as commemorative souvenirs and complimentary meals are only offered the first time you use your tickets.
Viewing Locations At KSC
There really isn’t a bad spot to view a launch from inside KSC. The Center offers the closest public viewing areas. No matter where you view it from, you will definitely feel the power of the engines when they ignite.
The absolute best viewing area is on Banana Creek at the Apollo / Saturn Center. Bleacher or lawn seating gives you the perfect, unobstructed view of a launch with the pads directly across the creek from you. If the launch occurs during the normal Visitor Center operating hours (Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 5 p.m. on weekends), you can visit the Apollo / Saturn Center while you wait for the countdown. Even if the Center is closed, restrooms and snack bars are still open.
The LC-39 Observation Gantry is a four-story observation tower that resembles a rocket launch gantry and is the closest you can get to the pad with an unobstructed view only two miles from the Atlas V launch pad and 3.4-miles from Falcon rocket launches. There is bleacher seating or seating on the wide lawn. Your tickets include a complimentary souvenir, snacks, and beverage. The LC-39 Observation Gallery is not available for SpaceX manned launches.
Your third option is right at the Visitor Complex on the North Atlantis Lawn right next to the shuttle Atlantis. This location is approximately seven miles from any of the launch pads.
The lawn viewing area provides an excellent view as the rocket clears the treeline and includes launch commentary (many times from a former astronaut) and a big screen so you can see the activity at the launch pad up close while you wait. It also gives you convenient access to the Visitor Complex where you can visit the exhibits, rides, and other activities during normal business hours. Many attractions inside the building are still open after hours depending on the launch. Details will be available when you purchase your ticket.
Pro Tip: Oh, wait. There’s one more viewing location — Launch and a Movie! Park your car in the Visitor Complex parking lot and watch a space-themed movie before lift-off. You’ll even have access to the Complex’s restrooms, gift shop, and snacks.
Note that due to COVID, some locations are still closed but hopefully will be opening soon. So far, the North Atlantis Lawn has remained open. Visit the KSC Visitor Complex website for updates.
To access the LC-39 and Banana Creek sites, you need to take one of the KSC busses. As soon as you arrive, register to get a seat.
All viewing areas are outdoors, so put on that sunscreen and wear a hat during the day and don’t forget to bring insect repellent. For night and early morning launches, pack along a jacket.
Alternate Viewing Locations
If you can’t get tickets, there is ample room along the highways and causeways that ring the Kennedy Space Center. The best offsite location is Space View Park. The park is located 15 miles away from the launch pads, right on the banks of the Indian River, where you will have an unobstructed view. It is the only park in the country that honors America’s astronauts.
Two other parks with excellent views are Marina Park and Sand Point Park. Both of these are also located on the Indian River. They normally close the gates at sunset, but for nighttime launches, they keep them open.
There are also many restaurants along US 1 — including Dogs R Us, which serves up some of the best hot dogs around — that open their parking lot so you can park and watch the launch. But these establishments charge a nominal fee for using their parking lot and the views are a little more obscured by trees.
For any of these alternative viewing options, get there early. People start staking out their spots sometimes a day, even 2 days before the launch.
For other options, visit the NASA Viewing Location website.
Tips For Experiencing The Launch
- Over 200,000 people are expected for Artemis I and those numbers will increase when the rocket is manned in future missions. There will be a long traffic jam heading to the visitor center so plan to leave very early and expect a long wait.
- If you are viewing a launch from inside the space center, there will be several lines of traffic at the entrance to the parking lot. Stay in the extreme left lane. All lanes going into the parking lot are funneled down into this one lane. Just watch for cars trying to move over into your lane as you proceed.
- Pack snacks for the ride to the visitor center. You may want to avoid drinking a lot of fluids as you wait in traffic. There are no restrooms along the road to the center.
- While many of the snack bars and restaurants at the visitor center will be open, you may want to bring your own food and beverages. You can pack them in soft-sided coolers. Alcohol and glass bottles are not permitted.
- There may be bleacher seating available depending on what package you have purchased, but that is limited. Bring along a blanket or collapsible folding camp chair in a shoulder bag. You will have a wait before the actual launch so you’ll want to be comfortable.
- While waiting for a bus to a launch viewing site, the Florida sun can be brutal. Be sure to use sunscreen, wear a hat, and drink plenty of water.
- Don’t forget the insect repellent! You’re in the middle of a wetland.
- And don’t forget your cameras and binoculars.
There Is An App For That
Download the KSC app for maps and information about the many exhibits and events that will be taking place at the center the day of launch. Visit the Kennedy Visitor Center website for links to download the app from the App Store or Google Play.
More To Come
If you miss this launch, don’t worry. More are on the way, just remember that when humans are launched, the crowds increase exponentially.
Sign up for the KSC newsletter to get regular updates on the launch of Artemis I, future launches, and when tickets for future launches go on sale.
The newsletter will also tell you when tickets go on sale for a very special event. Several weeks before the launch when NASA rolls the rocket out to the launch pad, a limited number of people can take a special bus ride to view the rocket up close.
For more information on the Kennedy Space Center, visit these articles: