Alta Picks: How to Experience Space Without Leaving Earth
While billionaires seem to be having all the fun when it comes to this new age of space travel, there are plenty of ways for the rest of us to be more than just armchair astronauts. Here are five activities to enjoy a sense of what lies ahead—and above.
Board a flight on the G-Force One—a modified Boeing 727—and float like an astronaut inside as it flies in a parabolic pattern. You’ll enjoy eight minutes of space-like gravity—zero, lunar (one-sixth of Earth’s), and martian (one-third of Earth’s)—in short increments. Trips depart from airports in Long Beach, Las Vegas, Seattle, and other cities. Various locations
Some of the best views of the heavens can be found at Lick Observatory. Built in 1888, the mountaintop astronomical lookout is the oldest in California and houses the Great Lick Refractor, the second largest in the world. After envisioning yourself navigating a spacecraft past the two moons of Mars, take in the observatory’s Italian Renaissance–style architecture, an equal cause for awe. Mount Hamilton, California
Living on Mars will be tricky. So NASA is creating a simulation of the red planet’s environment—the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog—at its Johnson Space Center, complete with limited resources, faulty equipment, and other stressors that will help the agency learn how earthlings might cope with such challenges. Interested? The initial cohort begins its mission this fall, and NASA will be looking for qualified candidates to brave yearlong stays at the facility for parts two (2024) and three (2025) of the series—an experiment for humanity’s sake. Houston, Texas
Now boarding at Gate A, passengers headed for the stars. Spaceport America, the world’s first commercial airport for spacecraft, is the future departure zone for galactic travelers. Private viewings of the complex are available through Final Frontier Tours and include a ride on the G-Shock Trainer, which simulates the drama of gravitational changes experienced by astronauts. Las Cruces, New Mexico
With Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, you can don a VR headset and open an app to find yourself sitting around the dinner table with astronauts on the International Space Station. This four-part series incorporates more than 200 hours of footage taken aboard the ISS to enable anyone to experience a mission in orbit. Available via download