At the core of NASA’s future is a new journey of innovation and discovery. Groundbreaking technologies will enable us to journey to new worlds and increase our understanding of the Earth, our solar system and the universe beyond. ATX– Astronaut Training Experience at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex – invites guests to explore as never before during a highly interactive program allowing guests to experience the thrill of a personalized space adventure.
ATX is a half-day experience offering a true taste of space flight by combining hands-on training activities and mission simulations led by educators and space flight experts. Developed with input from veteran NASA astronauts, the hands-on program includes a mission briefing by a member of the U.S. astronaut corps and question-and-answer session, true-to-training simulator exercises, and a space shuttle mission simulation aboard a full-scale space shuttle mock-up.
After a mission briefing by the astronaut, crew members (as all participants are called) embark upon a variety of activities, such as practicing landing the space shuttle at Kennedy Space Center prior to the mission, and exercises that prepare astronauts for the rigors of space flight, including the Micro-Gravity Wall and the Multi-Axis Trainer.
At the Micro-Gravity Wall, crew members are outfitted with harnesses and customized weights, which allow them to climb and descend the wall in an almost effortless state (in photo above). Likewise, the 1/6th Gravity Chair incorporates springs and pulleys to create the true-to-life feeling of walking on the moon. For those interested in the sensation of hurtling through space, ATX offers the MAT, or Multi-Axis Trainer, a device that randomly spins and twirls its occupant in multiple directions and through 360-degree revolutions.
Once crew members are sufficiently trained, they perform a simulated space shuttle mission in which they work individually and as a team to execute a high-earth orbit to rendezvous, and dock with and perform critical repair work on the International Space Station. Each crew member is assigned a specific role (mission commander, co-pilot, mission specialist, mission control officer, etc.) and, based on the assignment, proceeds to a full-scale shuttle mock-up or takes the helm in a realistically outfitted mission control room. Cue scripts allow each crew member to recite specific lines during the space shuttle mission simulation, contributing to the overall success of the mission.
The experience concludes with a graduation “ceremony” where participants are acknowledged for their hard work and are briefed about the future of the U.S. Space Program.
From countdown to liftoff to mission, the ATX program immerses participants in realistic astronaut training – a truly unique experience at America’s gateway to space exploration. The exercises and activities performed by participants provide an authentic look into what astronauts and mission control achieve together every time NASA launches a manned mission. A number of additional perks complete the ATX package including snacks and beverages, exclusive ATX gear and a photo opportunity with an astronaut.
Due to the program’s highly interactive nature, ATX crews are small and advance reservations are required. Cost is $145 per person. ATX crew members must be 14 or older, and some height and weight restrictions apply on select simulators.
Photo credit: Kennedy Space Center media room
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Mary Jo Manzanares | Mary Jo Manzanares is a founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine proving informational and inspirational travel recommendations for curious Baby Boomer travelers. She has been a speaker at various industry events and has a personal travel blog at Traveling with MJ. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Mary Jo's top travel destinations are Italy, Portugal, and the Caribbean.