Sending Kids Into Space
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
Do you have what it takes to be an astronaut? If you thought you would have to wait until you're older to find out, think again. Across the country, programs allow kids to take part in realistic simulations. What are you waiting for? Check out one of these flight simulations to see if you've got the Right Stuff!
"Mission: SPACE" at Walt Disney World
The mission is a journey to Mars, with guests working together as a team of astronauts. Following instructions from CapCom, each guest takes on a specific role in the mission as commander, pilot, navigator, or engineer. This adventure, presented by Hewlett Packard, is based on training techniques used by actual NASA astronauts. Inside the capsule, guests experience what it's like to blast off into space and use joysticks and buttons and individual video screens to carry out their mission. If you take a trip to Disney World's Epcot Center, be sure to check out "Mission: SPACE."
"Astronaut Training Experience" (ATX) at Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, Florida
"The Astronaut Training Experience" (ATX) at Kennedy Center gives visitors a chance to step into a world of training and preparation for space flight. The training schedule includes a number of activities, including a multi-axis trainer and a 1/6 Gravity Simulator. Teams are organized to run mission control or the shuttle itself. These realistic replicas allow participants to get a taste of space exploration. The mission involves meeting and docking with the International Space Station to drop off supplies and handle important repair work.
When you're not training for the big mission, you attend briefings from actual astronauts. Kennedy Space Center boasts state-of-the-art spacecrafts and launch facilities. You can also go on a special tour. You'll get to sneak a peek at actual launch pads, the International Space Station Center, and the official NASA press site. The experience includes a graduation ceremony, complete with the presentation of training certificates. Think about how good a certificate like that would look on your wall.
Crews for ATX are small, and you have to have advance reservations. The ATX experience, including gear and meal, is $225 per person. Check out the Kennedy Space Center Web site (look for ATX) for information on how to register.
Challenger Learning Center
The Challenger Learning Center Network is made up of 46 sites in 29 states, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Each center includes a two-room simulator, consisting of a space station and a mission control room (modeled after NASA's Johnson Space Center) and a space lab. When you arrive at the Challenger Learning Center, you are given the goals of your mission. Everyone is given Space Lab and Mission Control assignments. Half the group sets out to tackle their Mission Control assignments, while the other half "takes flight" to handle their duties in the Space Lab. Halfway through, the groups change places so that everyone can experience both Mission Control and the Space Lab.
The crews are made up of eight teams: Medical, Life Support, Isolation, Remote, Probe, Navigation, Communication, and Data. You'll get to use computer consoles, communication headsets, video monitors, and participate in hands-on activities. Electronic messages and emergency sounds and lights will keep you on your toes. Everyone plays an important role in completing the mission. Teamwork is key to completing any mission.
Challenger Learning Centers organize school trips, as well as public missions. The cost of admission varies depending on the location. Some sites charge $15 per person, while other locations may cost a bit more. Want to find a center near you? Visit the Challenger Learning Center Network.