/ The Disney Traveler

One of Final Space Shuttle Launches Set for May 14

STS-132 Atlantis is scheduled to launch on Friday, May 14 at 2:19 p.m. from the Kennedy Space Center (map).  With 25 years of service under its belt, this will be the last scheduled mission for the orbitor Atlantis.

While tickets to view the launch from the grounds of the Space Center are sold out, the spectacular launch is visible from many destinations, including Walt Disney World (map) which is approximately 45 miles away from the launch site.

Guests wanting a more closer view can watch the launch from the sandy shore at Cocoa Beach (map).  Share a great day in the sand and sun while keeping an eye on the horizon for that unmistakable white plume of steam.   It was during a recent trip to the Space Center to view a  launch that I discovered this trail was actually steam and not smoke.

Following the launch of STS 131 on April 5, my family spent some time on the beach to let the traffic thin out.  It was a great way to relax and catch a much needed nap, following the 6:21 am launch.  Though it was nothing like the one we saw at the Kennedy Space Center, the kids had a great time building a sand castle.

We had lunch at  at Marlins Good Times Bar & Grill, located at the end of the Cocoa Beach Pier (map).  Serving a variety of familiar pub style foods, burgers, salads, sandwiches, there is also seafood items which you would expect from a restaurant so close to the beach.  We shared a smoked fish spread as an appetizer that was quite tasty on crackers and seems to be a regional dish.

Perhaps it was that we were all so tired from our 1:30 am wake up call and 3:00 am arrival at the Space Center or the fact that after a long holiday weekend the beach and pier area were rather unclean, the food here seem good, but not exceptional.  Others that we had talked with raved about this area, so we would certainly give Marlins and the pier another try.

I must admit, the hot food and cold beverages, combined with a view of the ocean was a nice cap to the day.  Guests watching the afternoon launch of Atlantis might also enjoy a late lunch or beverage here as well.

It would seem to me that another great spot to view the launch would be from numerous sites at Walt Disney World Resort.¬† Grab a snack¬† and sit along Main Street USA facing Cinderella’s Castle.¬† The 2:19 pm launch time will have you seated with a perfect spot not only for the launch, but the afternoon parade as well.

Not up for a spot along the parade route?¬† Try¬†Tomorrowland Terrace¬† Station.¬† The covered patio provides not only a great view of Cinderella’s castle, but some pleasant afternoon shade as well.

With the current space program scheduled to be discontinued, it makes these final launches even more impressive and something not to be missed.  If you have never seen a launch, make every effort to witness one of the remaining few.  It is so worth the effort!

Photo Selections: Personal photos and WDW News, Kent Phillips photographer

Related places:
  1. A
    Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
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  2. B
    Disney World
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  3. C
    Cocoa Beach
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  4. D
    Cocoa Beach Pier
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