Walking into the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., I felt like I was on the set of Star Trek, minus the aliens. Jumpsuit-clad pods of astronauts-in-training mingled with ground controllers, flight simulators dotted one area and a Space Shuttle interior mock-up stretched across another. The snatches of conversation buzzing through the decks revolved around problem solving for “the mission.”
I was here for a preview of Space Camp, a program that’s been around since 1982. Actually, the adult version is called “Space Academy” and for $399 it offers a rocket-fueled weekend of four G blast-off force with Moon gravity bouncing and gyroscopic tumbling. This all takes place while you’re firmly belted into various contraptions with a protective helmet on your noggin. I tried them all and they were FUN.
The complex is an homage to the German scientists brought to Huntsville in 1950 to develop rockets for the U.S. Army. Led by Wernher von Braun, they took the first astronauts to the Moon. The center includes the world’s largest space museum complete with a chunk of Moon rock and the Apollo 16 space capsule, as well as an Imax theater. Outside sits a SR-71 Blackbird jet, a life-size Space Shuttle prototype, and a 36-story tall Saturn V replica, its needle nose aimed straight towards the heavens (the real Saturn V is there too, but it’s in pieces waiting for restoration). The facility also has 36 flight simulators for wannbe fighter pilots and a centrifuge, which can go up to mach five.
Believe me, this is the best place to get in touch with your inner fly girl. Take me to the Moon, Alice!