KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (May 22, 2007) – NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex unveils the first interactive visitor experience of its kind -- Shuttle Launch Experience -- lifting off this Memorial Day weekend.
This premier attraction officially opens Friday, May 25. It is the culmination of three years of development, under the guidance of NASA and veteran Space Shuttle astronauts.
Shuttle Launch Experience will send visitors through the sensations of launching into Earth’s orbit from Kennedy Space Center, the birthplace of American space exploration, just 45 minutes east of Orlando.
Shuttle Launch Experience combines the detailed accounts of astronaut experiences with the expertise of premier design engineers to produce a true-to-life experience unique to visitor attractions around the world. The technical highlights include an amazingly realistic simulation of the space shuttle’s eight and a half-minute ascent into orbit, custom-designed crew cabins with unprecedented vertical range, high-definition audiovisual effects, and advanced seating effects to maximize the sense of realism.
Delaware North Companies, which operates the massive visitor complex for NASA, financed the $60 million Shuttle Launch Experience through visitor complex admissions.
“Everyone at Delaware North is thrilled to celebrate the opening of Shuttle Launch Experience, which represents another major investment by the company to make this an unforgettable visitor experience,” said Dennis Szefel, president of Delaware North’s Hospitality Group, which includes the Parks & Resorts subsidiary that operates the visitor complex.
“We’ve been able to use state-of-the-art digital technology so visitors can marvel at the spectacular view of Earth from space after the launch until reaching orbit,” Szefel said.
Since it began operating the visitor complex in 1995, the company has invested more than $200 million in enhancements and new attractions at the complex, including the $37 million Apollo/Saturn V Center, Imax® 3-D film theaters, and restaurants and retail outlets. Shuttle Launch Experience is expected to bolster attendance to the space center, which drew 1.4 million visitors in 2006.
The launch begins at 11 a.m. Friday with a colorful and patriotic parade of American and Space Shuttle mission flags carried proudly by young people from Florida and across the country. Distinguished speakers include Florida Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp, Kennedy Space Center Director Bill Parsons and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Chief Operating Officer Daniel LeBlanc. First Space Shuttle Commander John Young and Pilot Robert Crippen will cut the ribbon and lead the way for 44 astronauts to take the inaugural launch of Shuttle Launch Experience. Visitors then embark on Shuttle Launch Experience at noon, becoming the first guests to experience the thrill of a Space Shuttle’s rush to Earth’s orbit.
On Saturday, May 26, the launch culminates with a live concert by Mannheim Steamroller onsite at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at 9 p.m. The Grammy AwardTM –winning band, founded by Chip Davis in the early 1970s, has sold more than 18 million albums worldwide.
About Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is charting a new course to bring far-reaching NASA exploration events and triumphs to visitors – up close and personal. The journey takes NASA’s space exploration story to the next level through new technology and interactive experiences. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has been operated by Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts on behalf of NASA since 1995. More than 1.4 million visitors annually tour Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the gateway to a working space center and one of Florida’s most popular destinations. Admission includes Shuttle Launch Experience, inspiring tours of NASA’s spaceport facilities, daily Astronaut Encounters, towering rockets, IMAX® space films and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®. For more information, call 321-449-4444 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.
About Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts
Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts is a subsidiary of Delaware North Companies, a leading hospitality provider with significant experience in hotel, retail, food service, recreation and transportation operations. The company’s portfolio includes historic properties in North America, such as Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex; Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks; Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds; Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite; Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa; Niagara Falls State Park; Jones Beach; Old Town San Diego; The Lodge & Conference Center at Geneva-on-the-Lake; and The BALSAMS Grand Resort Hotel. To learn more about Delaware North Companies’ expertise in the hospitality industry, visit www.dnchospitalitymgt.com.
About Delaware North Companies
Delaware North Companies is one of the world’s leading hospitality and food service providers. Its family of companies includes Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, Delaware North Companies Gaming & Entertainment, Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services, Delaware North Companies Sportservice, Delaware North Companies International and Delaware North Companies Boston, which owns and operates TD Banknorth Garden. Delaware North Companies is one of the largest privately held companies in the United States with revenues approaching $2 billion annually and 40,000 associates serving one-half billion customers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. For more information, visit www.DelawareNorth.com