The Ultimate Space Ride Opens To The Public
We knew it was coming. And we knew we were excited. It was going
to go beyond anything Disney had to offer and we couldn't wait.
Finally, the $60 million, 44,000-square foot, privately-funded
adventure ride opened to the public Friday, giving visitors a
simulated look inside the space shuttle - from astronaut training,
to the force of 3Gs astronauts feel while strapped into the crew
Originally reported by ANN in February, the
Shuttle Launch Experience (SLE) is NASA's first project to attract
theme-park ride customers to any of their space tourist
Along with the SLE, new NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) exhibits
include NASA Central, NASA's Interplanetary Exploration 4-D
Exhibit, Visit to the International Space Station, Origins: A
Journey to the Birth of the Universe, and Exploration of Our Home
What makes this ride so different from theme park rides,
reported Gannett News Service, is that it was designed and
developed with the help of astronauts, test pilots and NASA
experts, so that Kennedy Space Center visitors would get a real
sense of what a real shuttle launch feels like.
Prior officially opening to the public, 39 space shuttle
veterans were on hand to experience the ride, and, by golly, they
said it felt a lot like the real thing.
"It's very realistic. It's as good as anything I've trained on.
It's spectacular," said Charlie Bolden, a veteran of four shuttle
missions, who like most of his fellow astronauts showed up for the
ceremony clad in his blue flight suit.
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin and Al Worden who flew Apollo missions
said they were thrilled to get a taste of a shuttle blast-off.
But for $60 million, it isn't very impressive from the outside.
Heck, it's a big, gray box.
But as your mother always told you, it's not what you see that
counts, it's what's inside.
Would-be astronauts watch educational videos that run throughout
the attraction, placed in the winding passage outside that leads
them to an inside "briefing area," where four groups of 44 receive
a pre-launch briefing from Bolden on giant projection screens on
what their mission entails and what they can expect, AFP News
A rumbling floor, a fog machine and dramatic light effects set
the mood for a voyage into orbit.
Once passengers are strapped in, countdown begins, engines roar
to life, and the cabin leans backward as vibration generators and
seat compression systems cause riders to sink back into their
The effects trick passengers
into feeling the G-forces that mark the initial moments of a space
voyage, a sensation that culminates when the vehicle reaches Max-Q,
the zone where pressure on the space vehicle reaches its
In a somber voice, Boden tells travelers, "It was at this moment
we lost the Challenger in 1986, so this is always a thoughtful
The Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds into its
flight, killing all seven astronauts.
A sudden jolt rattles the simulator as a screen shows the
two solid rocket boosters being jettisoned. Then an eerie silence
fills the simulator as the craft shuts off its main engines and
shifts from three-Gs to zero gravity upon reaching its orbital
The module pitches forward causing passengers to feel as though
they are floating weightlessly.
Searfoss said that's his favorite part. "For about a second,
it's exactly the same as we feel in the space shuttle. It's almost
a tumbling kind of feeling."
At the end of the voyage, the shuttle's bay doors open to reveal
a spectacular view of the Earth from 200 miles.
"That takes me back to the best part of a space flight, seeing
our planet," says Searfoss.
Searfoss and Bolden maintain the ride is similar to simulators
astronauts train on in Houston, with more vibration, noise, and
other effects, but minus the stomach-churning roller-coaster
You have Searfoss to thank for the reality of the experience; he
was the test pilot.
"I would hop aboard their mockup and they would tweak and change
and adjust the vibrations and the shaking and the sounds and so
forth. We did that hundreds of times."
Dan Cuffe, an expert in amusement rides was among the first to
try the simulator and shared the astronauts' enthusiasm.
"You really feel the G-forces, it's very realistic," says
About 1.5 million people visit the KSC Visitors Center each