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My day as an astronaut -- The Astronaut Training Experience at Kennedy Space Center PHOTOS ADDED!!!
About This Page: This is a discussion on My day as an astronaut -- The Astronaut Training Experience at Kennedy Space Center PHOTOS ADDED!!! within the Space Coast and Other Florida: Kennedy Space Center, The Florida Keys, part of the PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and General Travel; On Feb 1 my sister and I went to Kennedy Space Center for the Astronaut Training Experience, a full-day “workshop” ...
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My day as an astronaut. The Astronaut Training Experience.
On Feb 1 my sister and I went to Kennedy Space Center for the Astronaut Training Experience, a full-day “workshop” that gives you access to some of the simulators and some special perks and tours. My sister is the huge space buff, the one I got my interest from, and she really wanted to do it. When they finally released the dates for early 2007, the only date that it was being offered during our trip, was on her birthday. Her 50th birthday. It was kismet. The only thing I was worried about was that it would be too physically demanding for her, but she marshalled her strength through the whole trip to be able to do this, and she did, with no special accommodation—except for telling the security screener why her knee was beeping on the scan—it’s titanium. (By contrast, her arthritis kept her in one of those electric scooters for most of her theme park time.)
The first thing we saw in the morning was the full-scale mock-up of the front of the shuttle (where the living areas and flight decks are). There was also a control room mock-up, to which we were oriented in the morning. (Uh, not nearly as sophisticated in the make-believe realm as Disney. The shuttle just sat there during our mission with a few blinking lights and noises…)
Then we got an extensive “VIP” tour of the space center. We had the most enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff members the whole time. We got a serendipitous close-up peek at the astronauts’ private jets (tiny little things—I think he called them T-38 trainers), which had our tour guide so excited I thought he was going to wet himself. We saw the clean room where they were building the new components for the space station. We saw the armoured personnel carriers (tanks) they keep within the otherwise-closed 3 mile safety perimeter on launch day in case something goes awry…one tank with a medical crew on board, the other one “with the keys left in and the motor running…and first astronaut to get there is designated driver”. We stood next to the count down clock you see on the network broadcasts at the press center. The air of being in the middle of history was incredible.
My personal favourite part was having lunch with an astronaut. We dined in a private meeting room with Gerry Carr, who was the commander of Skylab back in the 70’s and spent 68 days in space. His moon mission got cancelled and he got Skylab instead, but the stories he had…and the science of their time at Skylab formed the groundwork for a lot of manned space flight since. He’s stayed connected as a consultant, and though he was in his 70’s, he was sharp as a tack, personable, just—wow.
In the afternoon we got to try a couple of simulators—the one-sixth gravity chair for simulating the moon’s environment was first. It was fun to do the “astronaut jog” and “the bunny hop” and try to get somewhere…though the harness was very uncomfortable. Then we had a chance to get strapped into a gyroscope of sorts, the big metal frame of circles within circles--the "multi axis trainer". (Spins you in every direction at once, basically.) That one was making people go white in anticipation, and my no-guts-no-glory big sis went before me and actually had them stop it before her time was up. (Me, I haven’t even been on the tamest of roller coasters since a bad experience in my 20’s!) I got distracted chatting with the guy who was strapping me in and didn’t get a chance to get nervous—and loved it! I just whooped and laughed the whole time.
After that we had our mission simulation, which was actually a let-down for me, as I was one of the “mission specialists” on the lower flight deck. While the commander was slingshotting us around the planet (his controls actually did something), I was downstairs in the windowless room with the Aussie kid, trying to take each other’s blood pressure and vitals to report back to Mission control. My sis got the job of mission science officer (in the control room), and we reported to her, which actually was kind of funny. (She loved the original Star Trek, with Spock being her favourite, and I thought it fitting that she was at the science station!) I did learn an awful lot about how the whole thing works, though, like those guys on the lower deck are always trying to sneak upstairs to the flight deck to get a peek out the windows…and I know enough about going to the bathroom in space to delight any boy under 10…
After that it was pretty much time to pack up. We got prints of the photos of us with our astronaut, a cool polo shirt, a couple of “mission patches”—and another annual pass to the space center. (I already have one.) I wish I could go back to use it. That place is just so amazing, and fills one with optimism and pride at humanity’s accomplishments. (Ok, it’s American, but I did see some peeks of the Canadian astronauts, and saw a Canadian banner in the space station assembly room as we are part of the technology partnership.)
Speaking of, one of the other cool, and totally unexpected things: our “class” was made up of 12 people, ranging in age from, I’d guess, 30’s to 60’s. But only 3 were American…we had two Canadians, an Irishman, two Scots, two Danes and two Aussies.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone with an interest in the space program past or present. Though I'd also look into the lunch with an astronaut program as a somewhat cheaper alternative. (I think it also includes a "VIP tour".)
Updated, here's a few pictures.
Our mock up of the shuttle inside the gymanasium-type space we used much of the day.