Florida Travel And Tourism Part 3

Florida Travel And Tourism

Part 3

Finding NEEMO

I have lived in Florida since 1987, except for four of the last 29 years. I am still amazed at the incredible family-friendly tourism that just keeps proliferating. From Aqua Parks to Science tourism, from space adventures to underwater adventures, Florida has it all.

I love all things related to space. Space fascinates me. I would love to be the first person to visit Mars – Mars Facts. Everyone is fascinated by all things space related. Perhaps that is why Space Tourism is so popular in Florida. We have even named that part of our coastline as Florida’s Space Coast.

When I read about what NASA Aquanauts were doing, I was super intrigued. Wait, Aquanauts. Don’t you mean Astronauts? Well, yes and no. Let me explain. But first the obligatory tourism background. After all, I am a #TravelPublisher & #TravelWriter for the tourism industry and Florida Tourism in particular.


Living in Florida within a two hour drive of Kennedy Space Center is a dream come true for space and science enthusiasts. Watching rocket after rocket being sent into space is unlike anything tourists can experience anywhere else. This is especially true if you visit NASA during one of the rocket launches.


There is nothing quite like a visit to NASA even without a launch. But being there is an experience like no other. Experiencing the deafening roar as the engines fire, the ground shaking under your feet, the glare of the flames as the rocket literally explodes off the launchpad, and following its flight are a one of a kind experience for tourists.

Florida has many of these one-of-a-kind adventures and experiences that tourists can only discover at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. From movies to videos to photos, there is plenty to entertain all ages @NASA. An all-time favorite is the NASA Project Apollo Archive. But, that isn’t the only thing you can do here. Check out “Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism” Here is an excerpt from their website:

Florida’s Space Coast is best-known as the home of America’s space program, Orlando’s closest beaches and some of the best surfing in the country, but this is only a taste of what our area has to offer. A spectacular array of wildlife, unspoiled natural habitats, sanctuaries and preserves thrive on the Space Coast. We are also home to one of the world’s busiest cruise ports in Port Canaveral. There’s great fishing on the freshwater St.Johns River and on the saltwater Indian River Lagoon as well as deep-sea angling in the Atlantic Ocean. Over 25 golf courses will challenge the beginner or pro. Whether you dream of excitement or yearn to relax, Florida’s Space Coast has what you need for your next vacation.
And there is so much more. Lonely Planet has compiled a list of 96 Things to do in The Space Coast, USA – Lonely Planet


Now, to get back to our “Aquanaut versus Astronaut” story. As everyone knows, NASA is 100 percent all about training. When it comes to preparation for a rocket launch, especially with humans on board, NASA trains to the nth degree. So as you can imagine, training for a mission to the planet Mars, is going to take some extreme training. But how do you train someone to go to Mars when we have never done that before? In a word – simulation. If there is something NASA excels at, it is simulations from incredibly complex computer simulations to real life simulations. NASA works different scenarios with different variables in every way imaginable. And trust me, when it comes to imagination, nobody thinks outside the box like NASA.

So although I was intrigued by NASA’s latest training for going to Mars, I really wasn’t surprised. As most people know from science classes in grade school, different planets and other objects in space like Mars have different atmospheres. This affects the planet’s gravity, which causes objects to weigh either more or less than they do on earth. We all remember how light the atmosphere was when the Astronauts went to the moon. Even fully loaded with their gear and heavy spacesuits, they were able to jump and bounce around like they were light as a feather. Of course, it also determines whether or not oxygen is present.

This is where NEEMO, not Nemo the Disney movie, comes to light. NEEMO is an acronym for “NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations.” They call it “Aquarius” and it is located about 5.6 miles off the Florida Keys.

The astronauts, engineers and scientists of the NEEMO team just spent 16 days at Aquarius Reef Base “Since 2013, Aquarius is owned by the Florida International University (FIU) as part of the FIU Marine Education and Research Initiative, the Medina Aquarius Program is dedicated to the study and preservation of marine ecosystems worldwide,” Source Wikipedia. The expedition began on July 21, 2016, and ended on August 5th, 2016.

The purpose of NEEMO is to simulate a trip to deep space. NASA sends astronauts, engineers and scientists not only from NASA, but also from NASA partners like the European Space Agency (ESA has 22 member states) to live in Aquarius. Aquarius is the world’s only undersea research station. Aquanauts live in Aquarius for up to three weeks at a time. As was mentioned earlier, NASA is all about simulation and according to NASA “the Aquarius habitat and its surroundings provide a convincing analog for space exploration.”

Want to know what the underwater lab looks like? Visit: “The world’s only permanent undersea lab is the size of a school bus and has great Wi-Fi.

The pictures below show the enormity of Aquarius Research Lab. It sits at 63 feet below sea level, and is about the same size as the International Space station. The platform the lab rests on weighs over 100 tons. Photos courtesy NASA/FIU/Liquid Pictures

Want to actually go into space? You can do that too. Virgin Galactic is finally licensed to take tourists into space. How do I sign up?


For the first time, FIU (Florida International University) is offering, “Introduction to Saturation Diving.” According to FIU, who owns the underwater laboratory, “This course starts off by giving you in-depth discussion on the theory of saturation diving and finishes off with practical application of your skills in an overnight stay at Aquarius, the world’s only undersea saturation diving facility.”


With over 1,000 miles of coastlines and some of the most famous wreck sites in the world, like the WWII ship the Oriskany, scuba diving and snorkeling is a constant in Florida. Aquarius Reef Base is just one such opportunity. This is an underwater adventure available for more than just Aquanauts. It is a prime dive location for Scuba Tourism.

For the above-water types or land-lubbers, there is a webcam normally going that allows you to check it out from the dry safety of your living room. At 63 feet, it is a little too deep for snorkeling, but the water is so clear you may be able to make it out. After all, it is the size of a school bus. In fact, it is almost the same size as the International Space Station!

You could get deep enough to see it by using a snorkeling technique called free diving, but this is dangerous, takes much practice, and should never ever be done alone. Still, there is so much underwater adventure available for tourists that you could come here year after year and always experience something new, even at the same dive sites! So come visit all the alien creatures in our waters

Florida invites you to visit NEEMO or Kennedy Space Center, or better yet both. These are two incredible adventures you will never experience anywhere else. We’re waiting!

Watch for my article on Scuba Tourism in the near future where I will go more in depth about scuba diving and snorkeling in Florida waters. The “South East Florida Reef Tract” spans the SE coast from Palm Beach south to Miami and has “the largest number of scuba dive sites on the Florida southeast coastline with over 100 reefs and wreck sites.”

HINT: I will be telling you about a true one-of-a-kind dive experience only available here in Florida’s panhandle. The site is nicknamed “the Great Carrier Reef,” and it is one of the most popular diving destinations in the world. To help make wreck diving safer and more fun, Otto Wagner and Raymond Poudrier began developing detailed underwater maps of wrecks and dive sites. Read Mary Frances Emmons, June 15, 2016, interview of ArtToMedia: Meet The Men Behind The Amazing 3-D Scuba Diving Maps.

Since my desire is to always educate, here are some very interesting – Related Links

Journey to Mars – Keep up with all things Mars

NASA Television to Air to Mars Showcase, Rocket Engine Test

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) – Space Mission and Science News, Videos and Images

NASA + About the planet Mars – Google

NASA Releases Over 1,000 New Images of Mars‘ Incredibly Diverse Surface

Twitter News About NASA and Mars

***NASA Education Express. Learn more about the latest NASA education opportunities for educators and students

NASA is preparing to build these awesome deep space habitats on Earth

Remember to Request Free Travel Planners and Guides for Florida

For more information about Florida Tourism visit the State of Florida Travel Page.

To see all my articles and other topics, please bookmark this link: Rick’s Articles On LinkedIn

Lastly, if you enjoyed this article, please leave a comment.

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Rick Stoneking Sr. CEO
International Travel Reviews ™
Division of International Publishing Group, LLC ™
Inverness, Florida

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Rick Stoneking Sr, is a retired, disabled, veteran, minister and formal federal agent. He is now the Founder/Owner of International Travel Reviews (ITR) and a #DisabilityAdvocate for #AccessibleTravel.

Rick has been writing in one form or another for over forty years. He is published in multiple genres in both Christian and secular circles. He has written everything from police reports to a Christian Ebook, to a year-long daily devotional series. He has published articles and columns in well-recognized state and international magazines.

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