At the Kennedy Space Center, visitors learn how astronauts go to the bathroom – but not how US space travel continues. Because the President’s plans are contradictory.
Mom, how is that when astronauts have to? “The girl with the blond braids expects an answer, the mother chuckles embarrassed.” Well, um. “Fortunately, professional help is not far.” They do not believe how many times we hear this question here, “says a NASA employee standing next to a decommissioned launcher.” Astronauts, weightlessness, toilets – that’s what fascinates the children. “And how is it? The man points to a replica toilet cubicle with vacuum WC. “Everything is sucked off, but only if they aim exactly. This is part of the basic training of all astronauts. ”
Not everything at Kennedy Space Center is as funny as asking for the restroom. Suffering and joy, jubilation and mourning are intertwined in the history of American space travel. The island off the coast of Florida, better known as Cape Canaveral, has served as a space station for half a century. Although marketing today is much more professional than it used to be: when Neil Armstrong flew to the moon in 1969, the audience could at best watch the journey on the radio or on television. Today, the Space Center itself has become an attraction, a living museum centered around past and future space missions, most notably the next Mars mission (the next “Mars rover” is scheduled to launch in 2020).
The most important ingredient for an authentic space walk? A strong air conditioning. While in the universe minus 270 degrees Celsius prevail, Cape Canaveral scratched in summer often at the 40-degree mark. The space station is located in the middle of a swamp area, even in the entrance area, sweat stains on the t-shirts of visitors are characterized. In the “rocket garden” then the complete temperature shock: The sun bangs on eight discarded drive modules, which are higher than many office buildings. A strange feeling that most of these rockets were originally designed as weapons of mass destruction before they were used in space travel. War and peace, destruction and creation – all close together in galactic research.
The mood in the exhibition halls is completely different. The corridor looks dark and cool, as in space. This is where the Spaceshuttle Atlantis rests: It has been in use for 26 years: 33 missions, 126,000 flown miles, twelve docking operations at the international space station ISS. Now it is in the visitor center, a lit steel arrow that younger visitors only know from television. Do not touch, ask questions. “Was there something to eat as well?” Asks a boy with a NASA cap. His parents refer to a glass cabinet in which welded astronaut food lies. “Pasta with cheese, crackers, strawberry breakfast drink,” replies the mother. “Not worse than yesterday in the plane, right?”
Discover new things, conquer foreign worlds: When NASA shows their commercials, a bit of Star Trek always rings out as well. In addition, a strong dose of pathos, an appeal to the American pioneering spirit, which even catches the international visitors – according to Space Center come almost 50 percent from abroad. The dark side of the great adventure is not concealed: the daily fight against muscle wasting, cosmic radiation and flying around space junk. While hobby astronomers cheer on the ground, the real astronauts sit lonely in their living modules. A life in space is a life of privation.