Astronaut Training Experience, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla.
More than two decades after launching space-themed camps for children, the home of NASA’s Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs finally rolled out camps for kids and adults in 2018. The five-hour, US$175 Astronaut Training Experience is said to prepare visitors from the age of 10 and up for missions to the moon and Mars. After exploring the Kennedy Space Center’s ground operations hub, aspiring astronauts take the controls of Orion, a spacecraft designed for interplanetary exploration by Lockheed Martin. Next comes a virtual-reality space walk and International Space Station microgravity simulator. Their training complete, ATXers then proceed to Mars Base 1, a Martian habitat and operations centre with engineering and horticulture labs, crew quarters, a mess hall and a galley.
Canada in Space, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa
This new permanent exhibition shows off many of the country’s most famous orbiting objects, including the flight suit worn by Canada’s first astronaut, Marc Garneau; a full-scale model of Alouette-1, the nation’s inaugural satellite; the Sokol suit sported by Chris Hadfield en route to the International Space Station; and the first robotic Canadarm used on Space Shuttle missions. Should any of this inspire a career in astronautics, visitors can take a literal spin on the “Disorientation Station” to find out if the cosmos will make them dizzy.
Planetarium No. 1, St. Petersburg, Russia
Housed in a 19th-century gas storage building, Planetarium No. 1 set several world records when it opened in late 2017. The 37-metre-wide dome is the largest on Earth, with 40 synchronized projectors filling a 2,000-square-metre screen. The record-setting 10,000-pixel resolution is nearly three times that of a conventional digital cinema and because the dome touches the floor visitors can snap photos next to glowing galaxies. Supernovas and selfies, together at last.
Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission, The Museum of Flight, Seattle
From April 13 to Sept. 2, Destination Moon will wrap up its two-year U.S. tour at the world’s largest private air and space museum. The exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing with more than 20 artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution, including NASA’s Apollo 11 command module, Columbia. Created using the Smithsonian’s high-resolution scans, an interactive 3-D tour of Columbia joins interactive spaceflight displays and an indoor playground with a full-scale module of its own.
Discovery: Space Mission Hubble, National Air and Space Museum, Washington
Speaking of the Smithsonian Institution, its National Air and Space Museum is home to dozens of simulators. Discovery: Space Mission Hubble, for instance, invites visitors to blast off and witness the launch of one of the largest and most versatile orbiting telescopes. Pilots glimpse galaxies, stars and nebulae before a fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Mission: SPACE, Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Fla.
From Tomorrowland’s 1971 opening to the Spaceship Earth geodesic sphere at the heart of Epcot, interstellar thrills have always been front and centre in the world’s largest collection of theme parks. The trend continued in 2017, when Epcot’s Mission: Space ride was updated with higher-definition video and two new simulated flights. The Orange Mission involves a rocket launch, some meteoroid-avoiding manoeuvres, a slingshot ride around the moon and landing on the surface of Mars. The gentler Green Mission orbits the Earth while offering views of the Hawaiian Islands, the Northern Lights and other scenic sights, before finally coming to rest at the Kennedy Space Center.
Space Flight: Orbital Emergency, XSCAPE entertainment centre, Scotiabank Theatre Ottawa
Space adventures and virtual-reality gaming systems are made for each other, but if you have yet to invest in one of these pricey setups at home the Scotiabank Theatre Ottawa has you covered. By combining 10 D-Box VR seats with Space Flight: Orbital Emergency – one of six short VR titles – the first and only installation of its kind in Canada mimics the sensations of launching into orbit, zero-gravity and getting into trouble that must have been inspired by the 2013 blockbuster Gravity.
Journey to Space, Ontario Science Centre, Toronto
Space adventures are similarly well-represented in Imax documentary films, with one of the latest, Journey to Space, now playing in the Ontario Science Centre’s 13,000-watt, 44-speaker Imax Dome theatre. The 2015 title follows some of NASA’s most impressive recent accomplishments, from the assembly of the International Space Station to the development of the Space Launch System, the 111-metre-tall rocket that aims to propel humankind to Mars.
For something much more serene, the nearby Aga Khan Museum is hosting The Moon: A Voyage Through Time through Aug. 18. Among the exhibition’s highlights is an internally illuminated five-metre-wide replica of the moon, featuring detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface.
Rocket launch viewings, Guiana Space Centre, Kourou, French Guiana; and Kennedy Space Center
To see, hear and feel a real rocket launch – albeit from a safe distance away – the Kennedy Space Center is offering a US$75 viewing package for the liftoff of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy on a yet-to-be-determined date in April. A more exotic (and free-of-charge) viewing option involves travelling to the Guiana Space Centre, where the European Space Agency has launched 14 rockets since the start of 2018.
Zero-G Experience, NASA Shuttle Landing Facility, Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Virginia-based Zero-G plans to connect several of the aforementioned themes this summer. As it does out of dozens of U.S. airports throughout the year, the tour operator’s specially modified Boeing 727 will repeatedly create a weightless environment for passengers by performing 15 parabolic arcs. But the US$6,000 July 20 flight is special. As well as marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, it’s slated to take off from the airport where the Space Shuttle landed, with former shuttle crew member Daniel Barry along for the ride.
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