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Find space on earth on the ultimate extraterrestrial road trip

W With Richard Branson, he claims he is "tantalizingly close" to put passengers in space and Elon Musk racing Boeing when Mars, space travel is back on the agenda and I get a taste of what Nasa calls multi -axel coach, or mat. This intestinal drive for wild astronauts is guaranteed to put the head in a spin. Upside down, inside, I now regret my waffle and maple syrup breakfast at every twist.

Astronauts use the spherical machine to prepare for a spinning spin during reintegration into the Earth's atmosphere. Strapped in a seat in the middle of the device, I now understand why the men and women who travel for infinity and beyond really are the best of the best.

MAT is just part of the Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) at Kennedy Space Center, Florida (entry £ 39). It gives ground-based travelers the chance to try some of the gravely tests in reality astronauts on the road to weightlessness.

MAT offers laymen a chance to experience a reentry from space


The half-day program costs from £ 110, including a shuttle in a shuttle simulator and micro-gravity harness – an exciting taste of what candidates experienced in the BBC series Astronauts: Do you have what it takes?

For real astronauts like Sam Durrance, there would have been another day in the office. The researcher spent 25 days in space on two missions to the International Space Station. Now he is one of eight former distance workers employed to meet and greet ATX visitors.

A Lamborghini is a way to touch US Space Centers


Durrance has degrees in physics and astrophysics, so what are the most common questions people ask? "They want to know how we go to the toilet in space – and what the food tastes. Neither the answer is very constructive."

Durrance and his Nasa colleagues are waiting to appear on the Daily Lunch with an Astronaut event that costs SEK 22 per person at Kennedy. The buffet is a chance to meet a hero in reality, but you are advised to book at least one week ahead.

Otherwise, Kennedy's newest attraction is heroes and legends, which relive the aviation's groundbreaking days. A 4D movie brings life to life and visitors can be within an arm's length of a Gemini 9 capsule.

An unwanted Redstone rocket – America's first ballistic missile – hangs from the ceiling, while right outside the hall is even more spacecraft in Rocket Garden. The time your visit to dusk and the giant structures are spectacularly lit against the night sky.

Kennedy is the obvious launching plate for my drive to the south to find the best space-related tourist resorts in America. The road trip will cross seven states and end at Flagstaff, Arizona – where astronauts trained to drive the original lane back into Sixites.

If you think space travel is still a pie in the sky, Nasa is already working next to Muscle SpaceX on a mission to send two unannounced civilians around the moon. Musk, multi billionaire behind PayPal and Tesla, wants to make space travel as easy as hoping for an airplane.

A pre-packed vintage spacecraft


I took my space trip to coincide with a rocket elevator at Kennedy, but the mission has been delayed. Launches are visible from almost anywhere on Florida's peninsula, with data published at kennedyspacecenter.com.

I saw my fear, and the concierge at Ritz-Carlton Orlando did his best to explain the experience of a launch: "You can feel your heart pumping – the power of the engines vibrates through the landscape. It's a flame of fire, the ground seems to move and then the flame fades into the sky. "

Really enthusiastic, I sat on my first leg on my journey. From Orlando it is a nine-hour drive to John C Stennis Space Center – a missile test base on the Mississippi and Louisiana border, which originally used to develop Apollo spacecraft.

I drove a Lamborghini Huracán, the closest I could come to a road-rocket ship. It has air conditioning and cruise control, unlike Corvette Stingrays, most astronauts were allowed to drive back in the 60's.

New Orleans is a great base for visiting Stennis. It was late in the afternoon when I reached Big Easy but already my cellphone was surging with two emergency flood warnings. The flop did not come long. Soon, the I-10 highway that goes to stables over the city is a parking lot, as drivers took a trip from the water below.

Exits to the downtown area around busy Canal Street were blocked. I was tantalizingly near the Ritz-Carlton I was supposed to stay but even the city's trams got stuck in the flood. The locals seemed very concerned about the storm, although it was clear that even after the devastation of Hurricane Katrin, flood protection remains powerless against a serious river.

The next day it took less than an hour to reach Stennis. The Infinity Science Center (entry £ 13) is the official visitor complex and offers an educational approach compared to Kennedy's theme park razzmatazz. A guide explained that the best time to visit is when a rocket engine test takes place, even though it is a crunch because there is no official schedule.

Everything about the science center is great, including the engine scene of a Saturn V rocket used to drive Apollo. Standing under booster, it was hard to imagine anything this huge ever came from the ground.

Exhibitions and guest buildings are spread over a large area, so the center has taken a bus trip to the main sights. Do not miss the space gallery, which holds an exhibition of spacecraft technology – some look pretty comical as if they date back to The Jetsons.

I arrived in Houston five hours later and Buffalo Bayou had flooded. I stayed at The Sam hotel downtown, unaware that two weeks later the area would be destroyed by hurricane Harvey. Nearby Johnson Space Center is where Nasa's mission control manages flights from Kennedy Space Center 1,000 miles away.

A Saturn V Rocket at Johnson Space Center [19659006] credit:

The visitor complex – Space Center Houston (entry £ 23) – has an overwhelming array of attractions, all dwarfed by the 747 aircraft parked outside with a shuttle replica loaded on top. The main foyer is also filled with interactive, hands-on exhibits, such as rocket and shuttle simulators.

Starship Gallery contains the Apollo 17 command module, which is still shrunk from its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Another area has a collection of moon nights, a lunar rover-training vehicle and a full-scale Skylab training module.

The highlight of the experience was a chance to go inside the shuttle replica sitting on top of 747. To appreciate the scale, I recommend walking the stairs up to eight floors access building. There is a lift, if it sounds like a step beyond.

Drive west again through San Antonio and beyond along the Mexican border, even the countryside in this part of Texas felt a little space age. The huge horizon and moonlight bark has transformed the sand image into another world-wide kind of place, which seems to survive the extreme heat.

That evening, in the coffee shop V6 at the divorced Gage Hotel, in the Marathon, I was told about strange lights that emerged over the desert in the neighboring town of Marfa. Everyone seemed to have a foreign story to tell you here.

As if to prove it, it is across the border in New Mexico the International UFO Museum (entry £ 3.50). Roswell has been known for a flood of UFO sightings since 1947, when a strange, wonderful form appeared in the sky during thunderstorms. The locals have embraced everything extraterrestrial since then – culminated in the old cinema rebuilding as a UFO museum. The building also claims to be a UFO research center, but some of the exhibits have come directly from the set of a fifty record film.

The next day, on my way to El Paso, I visited the McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis. In the wild backwaters of Texas, they viewed the dome-like structures as they could have landed from outer space.

The weekly star parties (£ 10) are hugely popular and offer a training trip to the galaxy. There are limited spaces for these evening breaks, so be sure to book in advance at mcdonaldobservatory.org to avoid a waste of travel.

If you ever wanted to see a constellation close up, this is the place to do it. Just a look at the moon's surface through the huge Ritchey-Chrétien telescope left me in awe of what these incredible machines can do.

The last 800-mile drive west on busy I-10 took two days. Temperatures peaked 104F (40C) and the road often disappeared in an illusion task caused by the heat mound. My last destination was Arizona – and for good reason.

The rocky landscape outside my window at the Phoenician hotel near Phoenix was a clue. Just up the road near Flagstaff is where Nasa transformed an old volcano into an astronaut training site to test the original moon stirrer in 1967.

Thousands of explosives were used to recreate the craters of the Tranquility Sea, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would make their historic landing two years later. Nasa used satellite photographs of the moon itself to get the terrain at Cinder Lake just right – although most of the landscape seems natural lunar for me.

I was disappointed that the site marked Crater Field 2 was now overrun with four wheels and destroyed. But walking a bit further into the desert I found Crater Field 1. Further away from Highway 89, it survived the test of time and can easily double for the moon's surface.

Crater 1, where astronauts trained before a trip to the moon


Astronauts footprints trained here during the Apollo era have long disappeared. Underneath my feet, the porous volcanic gravel broke like big sand grains. But unlike sand, when I went down into one of the craters, the shape of the hole remained intact.

Only a handful of the 12 men who went on the moon's surface still live today – Armstrong himself died in 2012. Perhaps one day, the luggage mark on the moon's surface is the ultimate goal for space tourists?

Durrance believes we are just a couple of decades from passenger flights to the moon: "Absolutely. We had the technology 50 years ago. The commercial rockets we'll see in the sky are far more advanced. They are the beginning of a fantastic adventure. 19659002] "There is obviously nothing like space on earth. I'm too old to go back but what I experienced there will live with me forever. "


Hayes & Jarvis (hayesandjarvis.co.uk) offers a 13-day US road trip from Orlando to Phoenix at only £ 2,955 per person. The offer includes" standard "car hire and returns international flights from Gatwick with British Airways.

A Lamborghini hired from Orland Exotic Car Rentals (orlandoexoticcarrentals.com) will cost you a little more – from £ 1,160 per day.

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