[dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]lorida’s Kennedy Space Centre has opened a new Astronaut Training Experience for members of the public to get a feel for what it would be like to prepare for a trip to Mars, as well as actually live and work on the Red Planet.

Since February, the Astronaut Training Experience (ATX), has been giving wannabe cosmonauts the opportunity to train like an astronaut getting ready for a mission to Mars. Meanwhile, the Mars Base 1 simulator zone provides participants with a chance to “live” on Mars for seven hours as “rookie astronauts,” while performing base operations along with real science experiments and engineering tasks.

Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral, says: “We’re offering something that most people thought they would never get to do in their lifetime. For anyone who has wondered what it would be like to feel like an astronaut, to train like they train, face the challenges and issues they have to work though while under extreme pressure, the Astronaut Training Experience and Mars Base 1 is now available to everyone.”Astronaut Training Experience at Kennedy Space CentreUpon entering the site, guests will find themselves in an environment that replicates actual astronaut training techniques and experiences. According to a statement, “sleek design, realistic signage and sophisticated technology provide a sense of authenticity”.

Through the programmes and associated assignments, participants will work together by taking on specific roles to address challenges and solve problems. For example, the Astronaut Training Experience will allow groups of up to 24 to work in training areas that reflect astronaut training of the future. There will be a Land-and-Drive-on-Mars full-motion simulator, Walk-on-Mars virtual reality, Launch Mission and Spacewalk Training.

At the same time, Mars Base 1 provides the “ultimate simulation of living and working on Mars for an entire day”. Offered to individuals and groups, participants are assigned real-life challenges at three different stations that require analytic thinking, communication and collaboration.

For example, in the Mars Engineering Lab, volunteers design and test a programme that allows a team of robots to clear debris from a photovoltaic panel, restoring maximum solar power to the Base. They can also partner with scientists working on NASA’s Food Production by planting, harvesting and analysing vegetables and plants as they gather data in a series of controlled experiments in the Mars Botany Lab.

Programmes range from 30-minute experiences to camps lasting two to five days. Protze says: “The new Astronaut Training Experience Centre is the most interactive and technologically advanced experience at Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex. ATX and Mars Base 1 bring the future of space exploration to life. Guests looking to get as close to Mars as possible without actually becoming an astronaut will be able to have that opportunity.”

Prices range from US$30 per person for the 30-min Spacewalk Training experience and US$40 per person for the 45-minute Mars Exploration Simulator Training to US$150 per person for the seven-hour Mars Base 1 programme and US$175 per person for the five-hour Astronaut Training experience. The three and five-day training camps are offered for groups and are quoted on request.

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