“We choose to go to the moon!”

John F. Kennedy repeated those words several times in a speech he gave at Rice University in 1962, inspiring Americans to take up the challenge to fly a man to the moon before the decade was out.

I was a child when Neil Armstrong finally put a foot on the lunar surface in 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission, so I don’t remember much about the event. I do know it was a big deal for the adults around me, and that it forever changed our perception of the universe.

So it was fascinating to visit Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida and see exhibits dedicated to space travel from the 1950s to the present.

Although the space shuttle displays seemed to me to be directed at kids, the bus tour around the Kennedy Space Center grounds was more informative and awe-inspiring, especially the Apollo/Saturn V Center, where a massive 363-foot rocket was on display horizontally.

What was even more amazing were the retired astronauts and mission engineers who were onsite to answer questions about their experiences. Bob Cenker, a payload specialist who flew on the Columbia space shuttle in 1986, had a special session where he described what it was like to live in space. He said that the much-talked-about space sickness is less about sickness and more about space adaptation. Because the human body is not used being in zero Gs, astronauts don’t feel well for the first couple of days, but they quickly adapt to the new environment.

In another session about current goings-on in the space program, a communicator told us that despite the fact that the space program seems to have been very quiet recently after the end of the shuttle program and that Americans are currently being flown to the space station aboard Russian space vehicles, the space program is still alive and well, and that new ways of flying to the moon and distant planets are in the works.