Life on Mars – Kennedy Space Center Visitor Centre launches astronaut experiences

Two new experiences at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Centre allow wannabe astronauts to train for Mars exploration with the Astronaut Training Experience.

The KSC is debuting the brand new Astronaut Training Experience at its visitor complex in Florida.

“For the last 20 or so years we’ve been concentrating on training people on how to fly space shuttles,” said former astronaut Jon McBride, now working at the complex. “Well we don’t have those anymore. So we’re looking into the future, training our new astronauts how to fly the Orion.”

The experience includes a simulator that prepares visitors for landing on the surface of the red planet. Meanwhile a VR headset allows wannabe astronauts to train at navigating the rocky surface of Mars. A Mars base camp teaches guests how to grow plants for self-sufficiency on Mars – just as in the recent book and movie, The Martian.

“The guests that are coming in today, the experiments they are doing, they’re doing the same thing that NASA interns would do,” said Dee Maynard, education programmes manager at the complex. “The data that they collect may determine which plants we end up sending to Mars.”

The first experience is the 45-minute Mars Exploration Simulator Training Stage. In this visitors become the pilot or commander of their own mission. They learn how to land, drive and walk on the surface of Mars, using immersive physical and virtual simulators. The second stage is the 30-minute Spacewalk Training Stage. Here visitors train for an Extravehicular Activity spacewalk in a microgravity chair. Moving in a frictionless environment is ‘like no other experience on this planet’ promises the centre.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the visitor centre at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It features exhibits and displays around space exploration. It highlights historic spacecraft and memorabilia and also puts on shows and bus tours of the spaceport. It has two IMAX cinemas.

Part of the new astronaut attraction will open later this week.

The UAE and China are also planning Mars exploration centres: Mars Science City and space exploration camp in Delingha in Qinghai province.