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Celebrating Earth Day


Celebrating Earth Day

By Gail Breslauer

For this article, I'm switching my "dog mushing hat" to my "space helmet." This article shares a wealth of Internet links and information related to space exploration anniversaries, the final space shuttle launches, space celebrations and events.


April 12, 2011, was the 50th anniversary of the first human in space when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly into space; also the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight and mission with astronauts. April 22, 2011, is the annual official celebration of Earth Day, although, like most Valley residents, I believe Earth Day is every day as we work to protect and repair our home planet. April 29, 2011, currently scheduled as the final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour (the orbiter named by America’s school students and built to replace Challenger).

April 29 and 30, 2011: Aerospacefest is a celebration in nearby Concord, New Hampshire, to celebrate Alen Shepard’s launch as the first American into space. (Shepard was born in Derry, NH.) May 5, 2011, America’s 50th anniversary of the first humans to fly into space aboard a rocket (Alan Shepard’s historic sub-orbital flight aboard a Mercury rocket).

June 28, 2011, is currently scheduled for the final launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, the final shuttle mission and the end of an era in U.S. space history but the beginning of another era.

For those who can’t travel, you can watch the space shuttle launches as well as other “daily live action” such as the 24/7 International Space Station activities via Waitsfield Cable’s new addition of the NASA TV channel. For smaller screen viewing, catch it live-stream via the Internet:

For those still making travel plans:  NASA’s websites are loaded with lots of helpful information, but sometimes it can be a bit challenging to find what you might be looking for as you try to plan your adventure.


Launch viewing tickets for Endeavour’s launch are sold out (STS-134).

Free viewing: Find a site along Florida’ Space Coast beaches. Start driving very slowly and expect heavy traffic. Boating and air space restrictions apply, limiting proximity for viewing. Scroll down at this site for a link to that information.

Atlantis (STS-135) is currently due to launch on June 28, 2011 (the final shuttle mission and the end of an era). Launch tickets are not yet available to purchase. Go to the following website:


KSC (Kennedy Space Center) visitor area:  No admission fee for limited areas. Free parking in the visitor area and walk to see all you can that is free.

Interactive Map giving a layout of KSC:


My comments and recommendations about KSC attractions (linked at


Two-hour tour:  Well worth the money. Includes seeing the space shuttle on the launch pad as it's going through final prep for the April 29 launch.

 Shuttle Launch Experience: A simulation experience, not the real thing but a lot of fun and educational. (This was a fun one for me--especially since I was at my friend Barb Morgan's launch two years ago.) 

Astronaut Encounter: Included with admission fee to KSC. These presentations are always interesting!  These astronauts will also be available for "Lunch with an Astronaut" (extra fee, read on for link).

 Links to their biographies will appear on the "Astronaut Encounter" website linked below. (Astronaut appearances are always subject to change due to scheduling needs.)

April 18-22: Astronaut Fred Gregory, who gives a great presentation (as well as being a really nice guy).

 April 23-28: Astronaut Wendy Lawrence (impressive background. Haven't yet met her).

April 29-30: Astronaut Jon McBride (also impressive background but haven't yet seen his presentation).

 Astronaut Encounter:

 Astronaut Calendar Schedule:

Lunch with an Astronaut: extra fee. What can I say? Lunch with a space explorer! Up close and personal experience for your questions and answers. (I've been lucky enough to do this over the years in various situations. Now the public can, too. My brother loved this opportunity when he was there with his business colleagues.)

Cape Canaveral Tour: I loved this tour. Lots of history of the space program, tours of the original Mercury and Gemini launch area including going into the launch bunker building and seeing the historic mission control and launch consoles. 

This would be a nice intro for taking the kids on a future trip to Concord, NH (2.25-hour drive) to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Museum. This is a great state-of-the-art planetarium with great programs for kids--and adults. This is an ever-growing and changing center. (Alan Shepard was born in Derry, NH. Christa McAuliffe lived in Concord, NH.)


 This link will get you to the calendar for April:

May 5, 2011: 50th Anniversary of American Human Spaceflight (Alan Shepard's flight) 

Space Shuttle orbiter Atlantis is currently scheduled to launch on June 28, the final mission of the Space Shuttle program.  Public events and opportunities at KSC:


Astronaut Hall of Fame: Six miles from KSC's Visitor Complex. A great collection of space suits and space stuff used during missions, from the first Mercury missions to shuttle era.

May 7, 2011, Astronaut Induction Ceremony info as two more astronauts are honored:


Schedule of events for May 7:

Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge and National Seashore: no admission. The refuge has some nice trails and great wildlife sightings. Seashore is lovely, and depending where you are, Loma Linda beach gives some views of the KSC launch area—but this area and some others are closed as launch dates approach.

For those of you on school vacation but staying at home, if you can afford the gas prices and admission fee, I recommend a trip to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discover Center in Concord, NH. I love Vermont’s Fairbanks Museum’s planetarium shows, but the Discovery Center has world-class state-of-the-art technology and great planetarium programs. Visit their website for driving directions, admission fees, etc.

America's first astronaut into space was Alan Shepard from Derry, NH. He flew sub-orbital on May 5. To celebrate this 50th anniversary is hosting Aerospacefest, a two-day celebration.

Aerospacefest, April 29 & 30:

Aerospacefest Schedule of Events (still growing):

Calendar of Events for all programs, shows and events during April and May:




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