Space center simulates astronaut training


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex was upgraded recently with the addition of the ATX, or Astronaut Training Experience.

The ATX was developed with assistance from veteran NASA astronauts. The daylong program begins with an orientation and mission briefing by a member of the U.S. astronaut corps, followed by flight simulator exercises and a tour beyond the public areas of the space center to the NASA press site, the International Space Station Center and a position near the space shuttle launch pads. The experience culminates with a simulated team space mission.

Each participant in the program becomes a crew member and undertakes a series of exercises designed to prepare astronauts for space flight. The highlight is the one-sixth-gravity chair, which uses springs and pulleys to simulate a walk on the moon.

Also offered is the MAT, or multi-axis trainer simulator, which spins its occupant in random directions to simulate the feeling of hurtling through space.

Program trainers assign a role to each member of the team, and the team members then take their places in a full-scale mock-up of the shuttle or a model of the mission control room. At the Zero-G wall, participants are outfitted with harnesses and weights that enable them to move around on a space station as if they were in a reduced-gravity environment.

Visitors at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex get close to a Saturn V rocket, the rocket that took Apollo astronauts to the moon.Those who complete the program are given a photo of themselves with an astronaut, an ATX shirt and a diploma. The cost of the program is $225.

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In other news, the space center launched a 10-year develop-
ment plan that promises several new attractions, rolling out at a rate of about one every two years.  The first component of the development plan is the $60 million Space Shuttle Launch Experience, which is under construction and slated to open in early 2007.

The following is a look at other themed attractions planned for introduction over the next decade:

  • A new hub called NASA Central, a multimedia facility with video screens transmitting launch briefings, mission updates and NASA news, will be the first area visitors see when entering the complex.

  • NASAs Interplanetary Exploration 4-D Exhibit will show what it is like to monitor the progress of NASAs various space probes.

  • Visit to the International Space Station uses 3-D footage taken by astronauts of the space station and simulation technology to create a sense of being there.

  • Origins: A Journey to the Birth of the Universe will use multimedia, film effects, images from the Hubble Space Telescope and simulation effects to show other galaxies and shed light on theories of the origin of the universe.

  • Exploration of Our Home Planet will show how space exploration enhances understanding of weather, atmosphere, topography and natural resources.

  • The Moon, Mars and Beyond will focus on missions that are planned to return to the moon and to take astronauts to Mars.

  • The Space Shuttle Orbiter Exhibit will display a shuttle when the space shuttle program is discontinued.

  • The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Interpretive Facility will present a series of exhibits about the diversity of the plant and animal life in the wildlife refuge surrounding the space center.   
  • For more, call (321) 449-4444 or visit

    To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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