Curiosity for Velocity?

shuttle.jpg

It takes weeks of training to prepare the healthiest people for a space shuttle launch.

But now all you have to do is get in line!

The last (and only time), I visited the Kennedy Space Center was on a school-sanctioned trip over five years ago. Since then, I’ve never thought about it until I got word of their newest attraction. On the ride, you strap yourself into–you know what? I’ll hand it over to a real writer who actually experienced it.

Continued after the break.

“You’re ushered into the simulator, a 44-seat unit Nasa would like you to believe has been fitted into the cargo bay of a real shuttle. As you tip into the vertical prelaunch position, all you can see is the nose of the fuel tank extending before you, above it only sky. The distant voice of the capsule communicator seems mockingly detached from your plight as his countdown reaches zero, the engines ignite and the shuttle lurches skywards.

The simulator’s visual effects are as spectacular as the noise is deafening. Above the roar, the craft creaks, as though struggling against the opposing forces of gravity, air resistance and the engines’ seven million pounds of thrust to avoid collapsing like an empty beer can. In contrast to this crushing, earth-defying power, the 747 that brought me here offered a piffling 200,000 pounds of thrust.

Mach 1 is reached in less than a minute. By now, your head is being forced back against the seat and your jowls are wobbling like a fat girl on a tumble dryer. I’ve no idea how they achieve this effect on something that isn’t moving, but they’re Nasa, and they’re wilier than a crate of coyotes.

At two minutes and two seconds, you’ve reached 3,000mph and you feel a bit sick, but you’re now at the point astronauts call negative return. It means there’s no going back, and from here on, the ride gets rougher still, the vibrations throwing passengers hard against their restraints, beer bellies and breasts oscillating uncontrollably. After eight minutes and 32 seconds, the shuttle is hurtling heavenwards at 17,500mph, pulling 25g.

Suddenly, it all goes quiet. You’ve reached earth orbit, and Meco – Main Engine Cutoff. A postcoital calm falls across the ship, a pint of exhilaration with a chaser of relief, then, as you hang upside down in your seat, the cargo doors open and you look down on Italy, drifting by 115 miles below.

This could have been cheesy. Nasa could have signed a deal to use Luke Skywalker as the commentator, or blended ET into the concept, but it didn’t. It relies instead on the real stars, the men and women who rode the molotov monster to the final frontier; and by keeping it real, they’ve created the scariest ride in the world.” –

Oh man, that sounds like fun!

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