Field Trip Fridays – Astronaut Training Center

by Jessica on March 17, 2011

It’s a serendipitous thrill when a field trip is both highly educational, and gets major cool points from the kids. The Astronaut Training Center in Richardson looked to be something that was both interesting and fun, but by far exceeded our expectations.

We arrived at the training center, a large open conference room, and were assigned a group leader. Our first stop was the Lift Off Theatre, where we watched a short movie highlighting the historical race to the moon. Once we stepped out into the light, we were officially astronauts in training.

Our first training exercise was the Reduced Gravity Trainer, where we strapped in to a sled that allowed us to feel the reduced gravity of moon walking. Then, we compared the gravity on the moon to the Martian gravity, as the boys moon jumped to exhaustion.

Our next mission was the Lunar Lander Arena, where we tested out piloting skills. Using a joystick and a computer monitor, we attempted to land on Tranquility Base with the remaining fuel reserves and plant the American flag. Let me just say that we do not possess the skills or the prowess of Neil Armstrong. We missed the moon landing many times before we were finally successful, but once we landed, we planted our flags with pride.

After earning our flying stripes, we were ready for our Extra Vehicular Activity training. A small hovercraft, cushioned on a pillow of air, allowed the kids to feel as though they were floating outside the space craft in zero gravity. Using a hand over hand motion, they maneuvered through a series of obstacles to complete their training.

The final station required a bit of a wait, so we were given free access to any of the other activities while we waited. At last, we were ready for our flight into space. The boys were outfitted with boots, gloves, helmets, and flightsuits. Heavily weighted, they dragged themselves across the room to take a preflight press photo. Then, it was time for liftoff. Photo ops were planned as each astronaut descended from the ladder and stepped onto the moon.

Once on the moon, the weight of the gear seemed to melt away, and the boys leaped around the moon surface, picking up moon rocks and posing for pictures. After the thrill of training on the moon, the boys even took a moment to do a little dance.

It may be that this is the closest that any of will ever get to space travel. If that is so, we had a pretty realistic and out of this world space experience,proving that we all have the right stuff.

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