Space Shuttle Atlantis waits on the launchpad ahead of its final launch.
For the first time in the 50-year history of Florida's Kennedy Space Center, the general public will be allowed an up-close look at one of the pads from which the space shuttles were launched.
Today marks the start of the "KSC Up-Close: Launch Pad Tour," one of three behind-the-scenes offerings during this anniversary year.
The new tour, which will run through the end of 2012, takes visitors from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex inside Launch Complex 39. They'll view Launch Pad 39-A, from which most space shuttles and all six Apollo missions that landed on the moon blasted off.
"Visitors will travel the same route as astronauts to the launch pad," Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, said in a statement. "You're going to be close to where history has been made and will be made in the future with new programs currently under development for space exploration."
"You can walk in my shoes," added former space shuttle astronaut Jon McBride.
The tour also drives by Launch Pad 39-B, site of launches for the Saturn 1B/Skylab missions and space-shuttle launches.The Visitor Complex says in a press release that the pad is being updated to handle "heavy-lift rockets for future missions to carry astronauts in the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle into deep space."
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex previously launched two other behind-the-scenes tours: one inside NASA's Launch Control Center and one inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The shuttle Atlantis can currently be seen in the VAB.
The special tours cost $25 for adults, $19 for children 3-11, not including general admission of $45 for adults/$35 for kids. Deals are available. For more information, visit kennedyspacecenter.com.