For old-school inspiration, ‘Heroes & Legends’ is out of this world

The John F. Kennedy Fountain at the entrance to the Kennedy Space Center.
The John F. Kennedy Fountain at the entrance to the Kennedy Space Center. TNS

The passing of the iconic John Glenn — astronaut, senator and American hero — served as a reminder to us all of who and what’s truly admirable in life.

Inspiration can be thrilling. There’s no better place to experience that than a visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida with the new “Heroes & Legends” exhibit, featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame presented by Boeing.

This multimedia collection of interactive exhibits includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour featuring the Apollo/Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, Space Shuttle Atlantis, Shuttle Launch Experience, IMAX A Beautiful Planet 3D and Journey to Space 3D films, Astronaut Encounter, Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted, Science on a Sphere, Rocket Garden, Cosmic Quest and much more.

These exciting parts of the complex lead to the stunning rotunda celebrating our country’s fearless space explorers.

Located next to the Rocket Garden, the new exhibit begins with a 360-degree movie featuring clips of NASA, the lives of astronauts and some memorabilia. Listening to the journeys that were made, watching the work that was done, hearing how humble these brave men and women are about their endeavors was both moving and humbling.

As you move through “Heroes & Legends,” you head into large area that hangs a rocket overhead and houses space shuttles as well as personal items of the astronauts.

Characteristics that one would require to journey into space title each display, such as “Selfless,” “Inspired,” “Courageous,” with items that an astronaut felt inspirational to the person they became or an important representation of how they became the man or woman that they did.

Many chose to include toys, comic books, and Scouting or sports memorabilia in their representative items, reminding us that what we do as children really does mold who we become.

You can also find the original setup and belongings of the Mercury Mission Control room, and watch a 4-D movie titled Through the Eyes of a Hero, which depicts the lives, excitement, setbacks and wins of the space program as well as the 93 astronauts who have so far been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

When you finish viewing, head through the doors to the Astronaut Hall of Fame and be greeted by Alan Shepherd (in statue form) to meet the inductees. Created by the Mercury Seven astronauts (the same who adorn the outside wall of the building) as a place to honor American astronauts, you can learn about their lives with displays and interactive touch screens.

As inspiring as the site is — and make no mistake, this is a powerfully enriching destination to visit — its behind the scenes projects are impressive, too.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation helps university students pursue careers in math, science and technology. The U.S. Space Camp incorporates the Hall of Fame in its program.

You and your family can have lunch with an astronaut should you so choose, and ask questions about life in space or NASA. It’s not only fun, but a wonderful experience for anyone, no matter how old or young. Photos are available with the astronaut afterward, as well.

In case you were wondering — of course, they have Tang.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex