We have lift-off

7th August 1998 at 01:00
Where?

Space Camp. Just down the road from Cape Canaveral, Florida. (There are two other sites in Alabama and California.) If you think thisis a long haul, just bear inmind that it took Armstrong and Co nine days to get from there to Tranquillity Base back in July 1969.

Who goes?

Ten to 18-year-olds who are obviously made of the Right Stuff. Most of them will be American, but there'll be a small British contingent.

Amenities?

Out of this world. There is a life-size space capsule for simulated shuttle missions; a space station lab to conduct experiments; and technology to replicate space walks and zero gravity, where children can experience the weirdness of weightlessness. There's also a souped-up mission control with banks of video screens where budding astronauts can communicate with "mission scientists".

What will they learn?

Teamwork is top of the agenda, as anyone who now knows how Mission Control nursed Apollo 13 home could appreciate. Apart from the stratospheric thrills and spills, there is a fair bit of serious science, for example, the hydroponicum, where plants are grown without soil. Campers also take part in projects, such as building their own space station. How far this skill could be used back home remains to be seen.

What will they live on?

Dry ice cream and dehydrated strawberries.

What goes on when the sun goes down?

Depends which sun you're talking about. But if gadding about the final frontier begins to pall, there's always the Astronaut Hall of Fame next door. This tells the tale of the men, women (and animals) who boldly went, but not all of whom came back to tell the tale.

Lodgings Star Trek meets Terence Conran. The living quarters are called "Habitat" and consist of gleaming metal sleeping pods. These accommodate around 300 campers and 30 staff. The drinking fountains are "hydration stations", and the loos are "waste management systems". Should anyone feel the need to tidy up, the brooms are in a "maintenance pod".

Keeping in touch They were talking to the man on the moon here 30 years ago, so telephones should be well within their capabilities.

Getting there Space Camp is not likely to escort young campers from door to door, so you have to look upon the transatlantic crossing as one small step on the route to interstellar exploration. The nearest (subsonic) airport is Orlando, which makes it con-venient if the rest of the family wants to go to Disneyworld.

What does it cost?

Not as much as the $5 million two Japanese businessmen recently forked out to spend a few days on Mir. Instead, you get a five-day, all-inclusive programme for a more earthly Pounds 420.

And if they hate it?

Houston, we have a problem . . .

Janette Wolf Contact: Space Camp, 6225 Vectorspace Boulevard, Titusville, Florida 32780-8040, USATel: 001 407 269 6101

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