Space

Airports of the future

What will the airport of the (near) future look like? I’ve got a story in the current issue of AFAR that lays out that scenario.  Here are some of the highlights.

Photo -by Harriet Baskas

Your face is your ticket

Get ready for single-token travel. A facial scan and an initial look at your passport is already all you need at some airports.

Smart(er) security lanes

Time-saving, stress-busting security checkpoints will soon be universal. Improved technology speeds up the bin-loading process and allows TSA officers to scan carry-ons quicker and find bags containing prohibited items in a flash

In-airport delivery

Food and merchandise comes to you, wherever you are in the airport. OTG’s tablet-centered ordering and grocery-style self-checkout lanes are expanding, as are app-powered mobile delivery services such as Airport Sherpa and At Your Gate, already on-duty at the Baltimore, San Diego and Newark airports.

 Where’s my bag?

Lost luggage is a bummer. But more bags arrive as promised thanks to airports that employ tools such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and monitoring apps to track bags from the time they’re accepted at the airport to delivery at the bag claim.

Find your car – and an open restroom stall

High-tech lighting systems guide travelers to open spaces in giant airport parking garages and direct home-bound passengers to lost cars. Airport restrooms are high-tech too, with occupied/unoccupied signals over the stalls and technology that alerts maintenance teams to lavs that need cleaning.

Count on cryptocurrency.

Australia’s Brisbane International led the way by letting travelers pay for purchases with cryptocurrency. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport followed with kiosks that exchange leftover cash for Bitcoin. Count on airports, the first and last city stop for international visitors, to embrace digital currency as its popularity rises.

A nap or a night at the airport

Short-stay cocoon sleeping pods and microhotels from the likes of Minute SuitesSleepbox Hotel, and Yotel offer weary passengers recharging rests inside terminals. For longer stays, look for more full-size airport-adjacent hotels, such as the InterContinental at Minneapolis−St. Paul Airport, opened in July, and the TWA Hotel at JFK International, due in 2019.

Airport cities offer milk, medical facilities and more

No longer ‘just’ transportation nodes, airports are branching out with full-service grocery stores, medical facilities, movie theaters and entertainment centers. The observation deck at Incheon Airport’s new Terminal 2 offers virtual reality experiences, while Singapore’s Changi Airport 10-story Jewel complex (opening 2019) promises the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

Go to Miami – or Mars

 

As space travel and space tourism moves closer to reality, some airports plan to double as spaceports, so travelers can set out across an ocean – or out of this world.

What features are you hoping pop up at the airport of the future?

 

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.

 

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. 

Airline food that’s out of this world

When astronauts do a stint on the International Space Station they may request and bring along “bonus” snacks and meals for special occasions.

This summer, passengers departing on Lufthansa’s long-haul flights from Germany can “Eat like an astronaut” by ordering one of the dishes, Chicken Ragout with Mushrooms, that the airline’s kitchens prepared for German European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, who set out for the International Space Station (ISS) on June 6.

Keeping in mind the special requirements of space food – i.e. that it will be consumed in zero gravity – Lufthansa says its LSG Group Culinary Excellence Team worked with the European Space Agency to provide six special meals for Gerst and the Horizons mission.

“The collection includes typical dishes from the astronaut’s home region, Swabia, such as Maultaschen and Spätzle,” said Lufthansa in a statement, “In order to ensure that the meals fulfilled the specific health and safety requirements of the mission, the LSG Group team designed them as low sodium and able to maintain a shelf life of two years.”

Not flying Lufthansa this summer? Through late October, the business premier menu on Air New Zealand flights from Los Angeles to Auckland will include the popular vegetarian hamburger called the Impossible Burger.

Courtesy Air New Zealand

“Impossible Burger’s magic ingredient is an iron-containing molecule called heme which comes from the roots of soy plants,” notes ANZ, “The heme in the Impossible Burger is the same as the heme found in animal meat. The result is a plant-based burger patty that cooks, smells and tastes like beef but contains no animal products whatsoever.”

Sounds like space food to me.

Ohio astronomy park honors astronaut John Glenn

I’ve spent the last week chatting with astronauts and other whip smart folks who work for NASA and its international equivalents on the shakedown cruise for the new Viking Orion ocean ship that boasts retired astronaut Anna Fisher as its godmother.

Fisher was able to invite about 100 of her friends on board this cruise and I was among a small group of incredibly fortunate journalists to tag along for the adventure.

In a panel and in one-on-one chats many of the more than two dozen current and former astronauts on board shared stories about being in space and, throughout the cruise, astronauts and non-astronauts alike had a chance to check out the skies from the ship’s decks and in its high-tech planetarium.

Today I leave the ship and all the astronauts behind and fly home on an airplane – not a rocket ship. But I’ve got my eyes on the skies and I’m pleased to learn that on Thursday, June 21 – just in time for the summer solstice – a new astronomy park honoring super-hero astronaut and Ohio native John Glenn will open in rural Logan, Ohio, about forty miles southeast of Columbus.

Courtesy NASA

The John Glenn Astronomy Park (JGAP) will not only allows visitors to explore the night sky, but it will also offers daytime study with a  Solar Plaza to study the Sun, Earth and the North Celestial Pole, among other celestial features. The 80-foot in diameter Solar Plaza highlights the Sun’s orientation to the Earth as it changes throughout the year and is encircled by a low wall with notches offering framed views of the Sun on key days.  The new park also has an enclosed 540-square-foot observatory with a retractable roof  to  permit night sky viewing.

(All photos courtesy of the John Glenn Astronomy Park, except for photo of John Glenn, which is courtesy of NASA and the  planetarium photo, which is courtesy of Viking Cruises).