Space

Souvenir Sunday: Kennedy Space Center

Ready to travel into space?  Prepare for the trip at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center.

And make sure to bring home souvenirs.

Souvenirs from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center

Today is Souvenir Sunday, the day StuckatTheAirport.com takes a look at fun, locally-themed souvenirs you can find when you’re out on the road.

This week’s treats come from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center in Florida.

The giant complex houses the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, the Apollo/Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, an IMAX theater, a Rocket Garden and lots more.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center also has a great gift shops.

Here are some of the favorite items I found, including astronaut pens, t-shirts featuring dogs and cats dressed for space, shuttle key rings, NASA mugs (of course) – and lettuce seeds for when people land on Mars and need to start planting food for the future.

Souvenirs from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center

Souvenirs from Kennedy Space Center Visitor CenterSouvenirs from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center

Souvenirs from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center

Have you been to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center? Tell us about your favorite exhibits- and the cool souvenirs – you found there.

 

Space tourism: do real astronauts want tourists in space?

Are real astronauts in favor of space tourism?

 Spaceship toy - space tourism

Space tourism is a modern-day reality and a bucket list item for many travelers who have already ticked off many of the awe-inspiring spots on earth.

But do professional astronauts want tourists up there with them?

Earlier this summer I had a chance to ask a dozen or more former and current astronauts that question  — and to gather their travel tips – during the shakedown cruise of the Viking Orion.

The ship is named after the prominent Orion constellation and has at its ceremonial godmother, American chemist, emergency room physician and retired NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher. As the guest of honor on the cruise Fisher was able to invite dozens of her friends along for the ship’s maiden voyage.

Astronauts discuss space tourism and other topics

Non-astronauts can now contemplate how they want to visit space, thanks to private companies such as  Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, SpaceX and others, which are developing a variety of space tourism programs and out-of-this-world experiences.

To a one, every astronaut I spoke with is enthusiastic about untrained citizens heading to space.  I gathered their opinions about space tourism for a story just posted on Travel +Leisure. 

Here are some of the responses:

“I seriously believe that if more people had the opportunity to go into space and see the earth from that vantage point they would definitely stop thinking of themselves as being from this country or that country and slowly start feeling like they’re just from this planet,” said Anna Fisher, the first mother in space and one of the “original six” women accepted into NASA’s Astronaut Training Program.

While he wouldn’t have wanted extraneous people on board when he was flying multibillion-dollar missions, “That’s different than having a spacecraft designed from the get-go for tourists, which I applaud,” said former NASA astronaut Frederick (Rick) Hauck, a veteran of several Space Shuttle missions.

Jean-Francois Clervoy, a European Space Agency astronaut and veteran of three NASA Space Shuttle missions, is all for space tourism even if, for the foreseeable future, it’s an experience only available to rich people.

“The travelers who have the money, the time, and the courage to try space tourism are and will be great ambassadors” for the experience, said Clervoy, “They know people will want to hear about their adventure and that is what explorers and pioneers going first are supposed to do. Bring back the experience.”

Former NASA astronaut Sherwood (Woody) Spring, who logged 165 hours in space, 12 of them doing spacewalks, said while the views from space are great, space tourists need to keep the downsides of space travel in mind.

“When you get into orbit, 99 percent of astronauts go through what we call ‘space adaption syndrome’;” said Spring, “Some people throw up, some don’t, but you’re probably not going to feel well the first two days.

Spring said IMAX space movies offer the same great views without the high ticket price, but if getting out of this world is what you’re after “Go for it,” said Spring, “You don’t need my permission.”

Would you like to take a trip into space?

 

Travel Tips from Astronauts

Space pens ready? We have travel tips from astronauts.

Courtesy NASA

Courtesy NASA

In June I had the great honor of gathering travel tips and other advice from astronauts during a week-long voyage with astronauts and other space-minded people on the Viking Orion, the Viking Cruise line’s newest ship.

The Orion is named after the prominent Orion constellation and has at its ceremonial godmother, American chemist, emergency room physician and retired NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher. As the guest of honor on the cruise Fisher was able to invite dozens of her friends along for the ship’s maiden voyage.

Anna Fisher – ceremonial godmother for the Viking Orion cruise ship.

Travel tips from astronauts

On the ship, I chatted many former astronauts and NASA employees about what it was like to be one of the 550 or so people who have been in space.

Among my questions: What does space travel teach you about being a traveler on earth?

Many of the answers are in my story on Travel + Leisure “9 Travel Tips Astronauts Have Taken From Space to Earth” and below:

Use a checklist

“There are many endeavors in this world that would be much better executed if people kept checklists,” said Frederick (Rick) Hauck, a former NASA astronaut who piloted and commanded several Space Shuttle missions, “I have one I refer to every time I travel.”

Don’t pack too much and be ready for anything

Charles Walker, who flew on three Space Shuttle missions and was the first non-government individual to fly in space, suggests travelers keep in mind what may be available at their destinations.

“Both volume and weight are critical for both space travel and terrestrial travel,” said Walker, “Pack lightly.” Keeping a composed attitude is helpful as well. “Be open to what’s around you,” said Walker, “And try to be mentally ready to take in anything and react to it in a calm fashion.”

Get along

Jay Honeycutt, former Director of the NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center, said his years of observing astronauts and training them for space travel taught him that successful travelers are those who are comfortable with all sorts of people and those who are willing to pitch in when needed.

“Learn to do your fair share of the work that has to be done to make the trip successful and safe,” said Honeycutt, “And make sure you always have some fun.”

Be sure to take in the sights

“In space, you can look out the window and really get to know earth,” said veteran NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, (The Artistic Astronaut), whose was on two spaceflights and spent 104 days living and working in space.

Stott says while space travelers get unique views, there are plenty of awe-inspiring sights here on earth.

“You can go three miles down the road, go to the top of a building, get on a boat or on an airplane and get a new perspective on who you are,” said Stott, who is always disappointed when fellow airplane passengers go straight to the movies, to work or to sleep.

“It’s important to be awake and experience the journey,” said Stott, “And to be surprised by what you can see and feel along the way.”

Have some tips to add? Please add them in the comments section below.

 

49th anniversary of the Moon landing

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon 49 years ago this weekend – on July 20, 1969 – so let’s take a walk back through history with some of the photos and artifacts from that event, courtesy of NASA and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface of the Moon – courtesy NASA

 

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin with the United States flag during an Apollo 11 Extravehicular Activity (EVA) on the lunar surface.  Courtesy NASA

President Richard M. Nixon was on hand in the central Pacific recovery area to welcome the Apollo 11 astronauts (left to right) – Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin – aboard the U.S.S. Hornet.  The astronauts were confined in a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) for 21 days after splashdown on July 24, 1969.  Courtesy NASA.

Souvenirs from space: This Apollo Lunar Sample Return Container (ALSRC) was used to preserve a lunar-like vacuum around samples taken from the Moon and brought back to earth.  Courtesy NASA and Smithsonian Institution National Air & Space Museum.

Interested in seeming more snaps from the Moon landing? NASA and the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum have images from the collection here. 

(Still) Cruising with astronauts

I’m almost at the end of a special shakedown cruise on the Viking Orion, a new ocean ship in the Viking Cruise line family that has as its godmother former astronaut -Anna Fisher,  who was the first mother in space.

As godmother for the ship, Fisher was able to invite many friends and former co-workers along for the cruise from Rome to Barcelona, and many of those friends and former co-works are astronauts.

I’ve been conducting short interviews this week with some of the astronauts on board and last night a panel of (just) 14 of the astronauts on the ship gathered for a panel moderated by Lynn Sherr, who wrote  SALLY RIDE: America’s First Woman in Space and who you may know from her many years on TV, including 20 years as part of the ABC Newsmagazine 20/20.

Pictured: Paolo Nespoli, Charles (Charlie) Walker, Anna Fisher, Richard Linnehan, Jean François Clervoy, Dominic (Tony) Antonelli, John Fabian, Lynn Sherr (moderator), Brewster Shaw, Woody Spring, Nicole Stott, Jay Honeycutt,Mike McCulley, Jon McBride, Barbara Morgan, Rick Hauck.  (Richard Richards joined the group at the end and is not pictured here).

The topics discussed were wide-ranging: everything from what it was like to be out there in space looking back at earth to some fun stuff about the cool part of being weightless: “You can put your pants on two feet at a time,” said John Fabian, who joked that today one or two of the former astronauts might have trouble putting their pants on just one leg at at time.

The panelists also talked about what they do now to encourage others to support space exploration and shared their opinions on ‘space tourism’ (mostly thumbs up).  Several astronauts also gave their stamp of approval to some movies they say got space pretty darn right, including Apollo 13, The Martian, Interstellar and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

My interviews with astronauts have covered other subjects, including their tips for travelers here on earth, their memories of their first airplane rides (and how that may have influenced their choice of profession) and even their stories about the food they ate in space.  I’ll share some of those stories in the next few days.