The Space Coast is named after the Kennedy Space Center — Photo courtesy of Paul Hudson
It sounds like a fantasy question: “If you could have lunch with someone who had spent time in outer space, what would you ask him or her?” But with a unique program at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, this hypothetical is actually reality.
The famous space center – which inspires the name of the Space Coast region in Florida, home of the closest beach to Orlando – is the former launching ground for NASA’s space shuttles.
Today, visitors can still watch private launches here and also arrange lunch with a former astronaut in the Debus Conference Facility.
Lunch with astronaut Jack Lousma — Photo courtesy of Jonathan
Although the space center offers a variety of meal options, daily lunch with an astronaut starting at noon is the most exciting. Seating is limited, so reserve a spot well in advance.
Tourists of all ages, including kids, watch space-related videos and photos on a large screen and listen to stories told by someone who’s been there.
Kids will enjoy the explanations of what it feels like to try to brush your teeth in zero gravity, and adults may appreciate the deeper details about missions, the workings of the ships and discoveries made on mission.
Each presenter’s stories reflect their varying experiences.
Watch photo slideshows and videos at lunch — Photo courtesy of Aimee Heckel
In the past, veteran astronauts have included Barbara Morgan, Bruce Melnick, Sam Durrance and John Bartoe.
After the speech, the room opens up to questions. Go ahead and ask anything you’ve ever wondered about space travel. Afterward, take a photo with the astronaut. Occasionally, you may be able to follow him or her to the bookstore to pick up a signed book.
This unique lunch is not cheap, but it’s also not thrown-together fast food. The banquet hall, filled with circular tables, offers two large buffets with surprisingly delicious food.
Start with a mixed green salad, tomato orzo salad, three-bean salad or a roasted beet salad.
For your main course, you can mix and match grilled chicken with orange-cranberry sauce, baked cod with herb citrus oil or cheese pizza (which is popular among the kids) with various veggie and rice sides.
Kids also get a Space Shuttle cup. They can choose between mac and cheese and mini corn dogs.
Dessert is included, too, such as chocolate mousse, assorted cookies, brownies and little dessert shooters in cups.
Wash it all down with tea, coffee, soft drinks or – what else? – Tang, the orange beverage of astronaut choice.
If you miss lunch with an astronaut, you can still ask questions, get autographs and hear more stories at the daily Astronaut Encounter briefing, which is included with admission.
The Kennedy Space Center offers various space talks — Photo courtesy of Aimee Heckel