There’s nothing quite like exploring the world through the eyes of a 4-year-old. That’s what inspired photographer and father Aaron Sheldon to start Small Steps are Giant Leaps, capturing his son Harrison experiencing the everyday world, dressed in an astronaut suit. That same spirit of exploration is brought to life at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex where Harrison was invited to have a special space experience.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex welcomed the Sheldon family with a close-up experience that could only take place at America’s gateway to space – where you can see the real space shuttle Atlantis, touch a moon rock, meet a veteran NASA astronaut and get an up-close view of a real Saturn V moon rocket.
The idea began with an ordinary ride on the bus at home in Columbus, Ohio. While Aaron and Harrison were riding along one day, Aaron became perplexed when young Harrison wanted to remain on the bus to watch the everyday traffic of pedestrians and cars. He then realized that to his son, it was much more than riding a bus, to Harrison it was an adventure. Later that week, Harrison got an ear infection and had to go to the doctor’s office. Fearing the height of the exam table, his father asked him “What kind of brave people have to go the doctor’s office?’ to which Harrison replied “Well how about astronauts? Are astronauts brave?” And, that’s when his concept – first conceived on the bus – would become the project he dubbed Small Steps are Giant Leaps.
Purchasing a full spacesuit and helmet, Aaron began photographing Harrison wearing the suit in ordinary places – the grocery store, the movie theater, the barber shop – in an effort to show that what many take for granted, children are always discovering. Children, like astronauts are explorers, learning about the world around them.
“I knew I had something there,” Sheldon said. “I was capturing him just in his, you know, pure childhood perfectness.”
Aaron then launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to publish a book of these photos. Called Small Steps are Giant Leaps the soon-to-be-published book’s title is a reference to Neil Armstrong’s words when he first landed on the moon. When Aaron posted a photo of Harrison holding a sign that read “Florida’s Space Coast or Bust,” Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex extended an invitation for the “little” astronaut to visit the visitor complex.
During the trip Aaron and Harrison, along with mom Jessica, witnessed the launch of SpaceX Falcon 9, explored the real space shuttle Atlantis and had a personal visit with NASA astronaut Jon McBride. Along the way, Aaron worked his photography magic, capturing the wonder and awe of a 4-year-old’s first real space experience.
At first a little shy, Harrison soon discovered the many fascinating opportunities to explore Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
He walked the same gantry the Apollo astronauts used, Harrison’s visit coincided with the 47th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. He posed outside the Vehicle Assembly Building, patiently waiting for his dad to snap the perfect image. Together they toured Space Shuttle Atlantis® with astronaut Jon McBride, including a lesson on how to salute and how to control the shuttle simulators.
“We’ve gotten some fantastic photos,” Aaron said. “It’s been a dream come true for me.”
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex brings to life the epic story of the U.S. space program, where NASA made history and where it’s still being made. Fun and educational activities, include the Kennedy Space Center Tour featuring the Apollo/Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, Space Shuttle Atlantis®, Shuttle Launch Experience®, IMAX® A Beautiful Planet 3D and Journey To Space 3D films, Astronaut Encounter, Rocket Garden, and many other interactive exhibits. Opening Nov. 16, 2016, is Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®.
“I know the finished product will be something I can share with him for years,” Aaron said.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex admission is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11. Annual passes start at $75 + tax for adults and $60 + tax for children ages 3-11. For more information, call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com. For more information about Small Steps are Giant Leaps or to pre-order a copy of the book, visit www.SmallStepsAreGiantLeaps.com