They are coming.
Tourism officials at Florida’s Space Coast are expecting a huge influx of tourists for the upcoming Artemis 1 lunar mission, NASA’s first launch Space Launch System rocket. The “Space Coast” is a term given to the region of Florida where both Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station are located.
“First-time viewers should start planning their Space Coast escape now to be prepared. Many waterfront hotels are already sold out for Artemis launch attempts, but there are still rooms available on the mainland,” Peter Kranis, executive director of Florida’s Space Coast Tourism Office, told Space.com. “There are many viewing locations to choose from, and we recommend getting to your chosen location early to find parking and keep backup spots in mind. There will be a significant amount of traffic before and after the launch, so visitors should make sure they have taken bathroom breaks before the trip, loaded the car with snacks or ways to entertain the kids, and are patient.”
Kranis added that spectators at the Artemis 1 launch should “remember to wear sunscreen, download SpaceCoastLaunches app (opens in new tab), and follow NASA and the official Space Coast Office of Tourism social media feeds for updates. If you post images or videos on social media, please use #SpaceCoast so we can see and possibly share.”
Kranis said that while it’s hard to tell first-time viewers what to expect, the legendary story of space shuttle Cape launches can give us a hint of what an Artemis 1 launch will be like. “It’s hard to say exactly what to expect since this is the SLS’s maiden voyage, but we’ve been told it will look and feel similar to the launches on a shuttle because of the sheer power,” he told Space.com. “This will involve humming and vibrating windows quite a distance away. Although you can see a rocket launch via video or even from across the state on a clear day, nothing can hear and feel the launch up close. The Space Coast is the only beach that also serves as a launch pad, and we’re excited for this next chapter in human spaceflight and space exploration.”
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Florida Today reports that officials expect more than 100,000 tourists to flock to Florida when the space agency plans to launch the massive 200-foot (61-meter) rocket on Aug. 29 (or on the alternate backup dates of September 3rd and September 5th). Artemis 1 will launch from launch pad 39B at KSC on an unmanned test flight that will place Orion spacecraft in orbit around moon for six to 19 days before returning to Earth. The mission will serve as a major test for NASA’s future crew Artemis missions.
“We are expecting capacity crowds at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for the upcoming Artemis launch,” said Terin Protze, chief operating officer of the visitor complex, according to Florida Today. Protze added that KSC will offer “special Artemis launch viewing packages that will include some of the closest public viewing opportunities with distinctive experiences such as live commentary from space experts and access to select exhibits and attractions.”
Kranis said that other missions, such as recently SpaceX Crew Dragon launches, have attracted equally large numbers of visitors, with some crowds reaching 250,000. Fortunately, the surrounding county has more than 10,000 hotel rooms and 4,500 vacation rentals, but there will be many more visitors who will come by car for the presentation without needing to book accommodation.
It’s not just launch watchers who are excited about the upcoming Artemis 1 mission. Mike Bolger, director of KSC’s Exploration Ground Systems, told Florida Today that even KSC staff is buzzing with anticipation for the launch. “The growing sense of energy and excitement that has steadily built around Kennedy and among our workforce over the past year is palpable,” Bolger said. “The sense of anticipation grows daily as we approach the launch of this incredible rocket and spacecraft.”
KSC Director Janet Petro said the entire center is counting down to launch day. “You can see it in people’s faces, you can hear it in their voices, and when we all stand together with our eyes to the sky on launch day, I don’t think there will be a feeling like it in the world.”