7 Space Themed Short Breaks

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA USA
The world's largest and busiest launch facility, Kennedy is the place to touch a moon rock, get close to the coastal launch pads and, if you're lucky, watch a satellite take off, which still happens. Don't miss the bus tour to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, home to the largest rocket built (a 363ft-long moon rocket), the moving Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit and the Shuttle Launch Experience.

A few miles up the coast at the US Astronaut Hall of Fame you can book an individual or family half-day astronaut training experience that includes riding simulators and building and launching your own rockets.  Meeting a veteran Nasa astronaut is on the itinery, as is working on a space shuttle mission to the International Space Statio in a full-scale orbiter mock-up and mission control facility.

The Kennedy Space Center is a 45 miles from Orlando and can be down as an easy day trip from Disney. The nearest hotels are in Titusville, a 20 minute drive away. Tickets start at $50 for adults, $30 for children. You can get a package which includes lunch with an astronaut. The astronaut training experience tickets are at a different price.  visit kennedyspacecenter.com for more information.

SPACE CENTER HOUSTON, TEXAS USA
Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space capsules and full-scale mock-ups of Skylab are some of the highlights here.  A new visitor experience has been setup called, "Be the Astronaut" gives visitors the change to use a robotic arm to refuel in flight and drive a rover at the Moon's north pole and in the Mars Labyrinth of Night.

An 12 million dollar Independence Plaza was opened recently.  It will allow visitors to enter the shuttle replica, "Independence".  Real space nuts will want to book the four to five-hour VIP level 9 tour, which includes an in-dept look at mission control - from which American space flights have always been directed, as well as how astronauts train. visit spacecenter.org for more information and cost.

CITÉ DE L'ESPACE, TOULOUSE FRANCE
Rising out of the Toulouse suburbs, the 150ft high Ariane 5 rocket in front of the Cité de L'Espace is hard to miss.  Try the Moon-Runner, a simulator that lets you experience a weightless moonwalk, wander through the Mir space station and Soyuz modules and see a Mars Curiosity lander in action.  There's an Imax film about the repair of the Hubble Telescope and a mock-up control room so you can try to put a satellite into orbit. See cite-space.com for more information.

SPACEPORT AMERICA, NEW MEXICO USA
Spaceport America is the world's first commercial spaceport - home to Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo spacecraft, which opened to visitors recently.  Tours start at the visitor's centre in the wonderfully named New Mexico tow Truth or Consequences, followed by a bus ride to the spaceport to try the G-Shock simulator, view the operations centre, cruise down the runway and grab a selfie outside Virgin Galactic's hanger.

Tours for Spaceport America runs from Thursday to Monday and cost about $40 adult and $30 children.  The nearest airports are Albusquerque ad El Paso, you and stay in Blackstone Hot Springs.

ZERO GRAVITY FLIGHTS, USA
If you really want to feel like an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, the best way is to follow Stephen Hawking and take a trip on a "vomit comit".  Zero-G offers flight o a specially modified Boeing 727, on which passengers can expect about seven minutes of weightlessness during mid-air aerobatic manoeuvres. See gozerog.com for more information.

HIGH DOWN, UK
It's a little known fact that on the western tip of the Isle of Wight, just above the Needles, the was once a top-secret rocket testing site.  Between 1957 and 1972, 27 rockets were tested here before being shipped to Australia, where they were launched from the middle of the desert in Woomera (Britain is the only country to have developed a successful satellite launch capability and then abandon it).  It's a small site, and one, for aficionados, but its two underground rooms, tell the whole story and there are models of the rockets "Black Knight" and "Black Arrow" and the satellite Prospero. Entry to the Needles New Battery is free see nationaltrust.org.uk for more details.

STAR CITY, RUSSIA
Deep in the forest northeast of Moscow is the closed town where the space age was bor.  Since 1960, Russia has run a cosmonaut training centre at Star City. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman and the only one to fly solo, lived and worked here.  Since 1996, the centre has allowed public access, although there's a lot of red tape.  Highlights are a full-scale Mir space station replica, centrifuge and hydro lab (used for weightlessness training), as well as a museum.

Regent Holidays offers trips to Star city as part of five-day Cosmonaut Weekend in Moscow, the price is high and they will help with visa applications and applications for visiting Star City.

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