Wednesday, March 2, 2011

NASA Causeway Tickets, what you need to know

Last week I had the opportunity to watch the final launch of space shuttle Discovery on STS-133. Since my attendance at the NASA Tweetup for STS-132, I’m determined to see all the remaining shuttle launches. I originally had tickets to watch from the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center but as the launch date continued to slip, I realized I’d be in Florida with Donnie for a Church IT Round Table event on the rescheduled launch date.

Since we were going to be in Florida together, I got online to see if I could find tickets for us both to attend the launch either at the Visitors Center or maybe even get an upgrade to the NASA Causeway. My online efforts paid off and I found a pair of Causeway tickets from a space fan in Europe who was unable to attend due to the numerous changes in the launch date.

It is a given that regardless of the color of your Launch Transportation Ticket each person must also have a blue KSCVC admission ticket.

He was offering two green Launch Transportation Tickets. Since I already had a car pass, I was trying to find LTT as those tickets get you from the KSCVC to the Causeway. I did some research online and concluded that all we needed were the green Launch Transportation Tickets and we would be fine. It didn’t matter if they were from a tour operator or from Kennedy.

We arrived at the KSCVC on launch day to find out a different story. Turns out there are three types of Launch Transport Tickets, orange, purple, and green. Here is what you need to know. The green LTT’s are for tour operator use only. Those tickets provide you transportation from the Visitors Center but they do not provide you transportation back to KSCVC. This was a problem for us as my car was at the Visitors Center.

The tour operator explained to us that NASA security does not allow the tour operators to return to the Visitors Center from the Causeway after launch. All tour operators are required to leave the Causeway after launch and head back to their origination points. They are not able, for security reasons, to return to the KSCVC. This one little fact is not communicated well by the tour operators. Rather they just tell you that if you buy their tickets you have to use their transportation in what appears as a way to force you to spend more money with them. The reality is that they are enforcing NASA regulations that the tour operators are escorted from the Causeway off NASA property following the launch so if you don’t take their transportation you will be stranded with NASA security.

The orange and purple LTT’s provide transportation to and from the KSCVC. These are tickets issued by the Visitors Center and provide you a seat on the NASA busses to and from the Causeway. The Causeway is restricted government property. The security regulations require that everyone have a seat on a bus to and from the Causeway for launch, so NASA issues the number of tickets they have for bus seats to the Causeway and the tour operators do the same. The difference is NASA will return you to the Visitors Center while the tour operators who issue the green tickets are escorted off the space center to begin their trip back to their origination points.

We learned this the hard way. We showed up at the KSCVC ready to board a tour operator bus since we had green tickets only to find out the tour bus was going to take us to Melbourne after the launch and not back to KSCVC where my car was. This was a problem. Fortunately, the tour operator understood our predicament, put is in contact with someone with the KSCVC who graciously provided us with orange LTT’s so we could get back to the Visitors Center after the launch and pick up our car.

The moral of the story:
  1. Green LTT’s only work if used with the tour operators which is required by NASA security. The tour operators are not trying to rip you off in this regard. The tour operators drop you off at the Visitors Center, take you to the Causeway from the KSCVC, and then return you to their pick up locations. They are not permitted to return to KSCVC.
  2. Orange and Purple LTT’s work with car passes from the KSCVC. These tickets provide you transportation to and from the Causeway from the Visitors Center on NASA busses. You cannot combine orange and purple Launch Transportation Tickets with green ones.
  3. The KSCVC staff are wonderful folks who were great to work with us to sort out our confusion. Based on their reaction this has probably happened before.
Hopefully this will help someone else from ending up in the same situation we were in.

Not only is the launching of humans into space complicated business the viewing of the launching of humans into space can be just as complicated.