On June 26 1963 President Kennedy announced "Ich bin ein Berliner." On July 20 1969, at another of his defining moments, everyone else on the planet announced "I am an American." For us Europeans it was already July 21, but at not-quite 14 years old and 3am in the morning, it was an intensely emotional moment, and one I have never forgotten. I was unbelievably proud. Now that I am an American and privileged enough to be able to visit the Kennedy Space Center (a concept that was beyond my wildest dreams at the time) it reignites all those old feelings every time I come.

We got a late start, and Claudia was not enthusiastic about the 50 miles drive to Cape Canaveral. Sue and Ken, our second set of friends, and hosts for the day, were complete champs and suggested a compromise. Sue and Claudia would return to their house and hang out for the afternoon, while Ken and I headed east. It turned out Ken was looking forward to it just as much as I was. What a great result.

Since I was here last time they've made two spectacular improvements: the Saturn V now has its own shed, so you can get up close and personal instead of just driving past it; and the decommissioned Atlantis also has it's own home. The photos do a poor job, but they are still better than words.

All those years ago it was very sad to see the Saturn V on its side, somehow fallen, defeated. How much more powerful for it to be proud and vertical once properly housed? While thrilled that it now had a home, I was more than a little sceptical about it still being prone. But after spending some time along, under, and around it, I'm sold. It is of course more intimate, but it is also so goddamned big that it is quite capable of overcoming the humbling orientation. And now it is wheelchair accessible. I loved it.

Photo reproduced by kind permission of its owners, Jeanne et Chris Roué-Taylor. See their own excellent blog: maximumadventure.net

I had somewhat better luck with Atlantis. While it doesn't hold the same place in my heart as the Apollo missions, the absolutely spectacular display with Atlantis somehow suspended in space in front of you is literally breathtaking. It is truly as if it is still in commission, and you are spacewalking around it. For minutes at a time, and from multiple vantage points, I just stood and stared.

Ken and I agreed that although the side shows were all excellent, and did a great job entertaining the younger members of the audience, they just couldn't hold our attention. We kept finding ourselves turning back and staring again. Atlantis looks so organic, fragile. The heat shield looks for all the world like fish scales, and the upper surfaces looks like paper. No shiny, polished, space-age, aerodynamic surfaces anywhere.

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC has long been my hands-down favorite museum on the planet, but these two exhibits put the Kennedy Space Center right up there with it. Words fail me. We returned to Orlando in happy silence, lost in our thoughts.