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First look: Heroes and Legends at Kennedy Space Center

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First look: Heroes and Legends at Kennedy Space Center

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Heroes are getting an upsized hip-hip-hooray courtesy of a new attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
Heroes and Legends, featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, officially opens to the public Friday. The $20 million enhancement includes a gigantic 3-D movie, assorted space relics in shuttle-inspired pods and other elements united in a heroism theme.
The centerpiece of the attraction is within a "225-degree, cinematic, inverted dome 3-D projection experience" said Eric Stiles, design specialist. "You are going to relive through the eyes of four unique space heroes their journey at that moment in history when they did something incredible special."
The film is shown in a four-level theater with a screen nearly 30 feet tall.
"It was a combination of CGI, computer graphics and live film shoots and visual effects, which is compositing inside our CG assets, like a feature film," said Cecil Magpuri, president of Orlando-based Falcon's Creative Group, the designer, media producer and executive producer of Heroes and Legends.
Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame is a a new attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is set to open Friday, Nov. 11, 2016.
Among the stories are Neil Armstrong's docking incident in space and a re-creation of astronaut Jim Lovell, as a young man, walking on the beach with famed aviator Charles Limburgh. There windy effects and rich, motion-heavy graphic components.
"I think the content makes the screen go away," Magpuri said.
That big-screen event is preceded by a film presentation called "What Is a Hero?" It features people, ranging from everyday KSC guests to actors and astronauts. Backed by a heart-swelling soundtrack, folks talk about their heroes, ranging from Luke Skywalker to teachers to Tuskegee Airmen to relatives to, yes, space explorers. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin is one personality who testifies about his father, as does "Star Trek" actor George Takei.
A look at Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
A look at Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
"I am who I am today because of my father," Takei says in the production.
Later in the exhibit, guests can visit nine pods that showcase astronaut artifacts alongside multimedia presentations.
"You'll see all these different self-contained exhibits with titles on top of them," Stiles said. "It really highlights nine unique characteristics or traits of a hero. Things like curiously, passion, tenacity, even selflessness."
The artifacts were items that the space center in Brevard County already had on hand or were found in the former quarters of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, Stiles said.
"In many cases they were hidden away, and they just had a little text label with them. They were these wonderful hidden gems," he said. The items, which include astronaut Deke Slayton's World War II bomber jacket and John Glenn's orbital map, were picked to represent each heroic quality. There are also childhood report cards and toys that tie back to key moments in astronauts' lives.
The look of the 12-foot-tall pods are inspired by the interior of space shuttles, said Melissa Ruminot, director of marketing and business development for Orlando-based Nassal Inc., which built the exhibits.
"When you're trying to tell a story ... in a space that's quite confined, there are ways that you have to do it that have to be creative, which is why the pods happened," she said. "When you're inside of it, the directional sound helps tell that story a little more concisely."
The pods use touch screens and lighting to enhance the artifacts.
"We're going to grab your attention in a way that's meaningful," Ruminot said.
Heroes and Legends, a renovation of the existing Early Space Exploration building near the attraction's front entrance, winds up with the relocated hall of fame, which the visitor complex had operated about 8 miles away for the last 15 years.
Although the hall had been included in the KSC ticket, "people very rarely were going over there to finish their day," said Theron Protze, chief operating officer of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. "It needs to be front and center, give the honor and respect our American heroes deserve."
The hall of fame was modernized with touch-screen interactions.
"Instead of just reading a plaque … we're really focused on the vision of becoming a space experience, emerging the guests into an experience where they get to feel, see and hear the stories of the space program of past, present and future," Protze said.
Expect more enhancements at the attraction, Protze said.
"We have a comprehensive master plan over the next five years," he said. "But I can tell you over the next 12 months the entire integral part of the center, the heartbeat of the complex, is going to be completely transformed." or 407-420-5477

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