We’re talking poo with a NASA astronaut. This is not a euphemism. The spaceman we’re having lunch with has opened his address not with an inspirational speech about the mission to Mars or the historical significance of the space race, but about what happens to food when it goes in one end of an astronaut and comes out of the other. Of course, the kids, who are taking part in Kennedy Space Center’s new Lunch With An Astronaut event, are loving it.
And, as it turns out, the biological path that food takes in space is pretty similar to that on earth. This is a nifty device to get kids engaged rather than intimidated by the science of space, while our astronaut, who goes by the suitably starry name of Tom Jones, cleverly weaves in some mind-blowing stories and statistics.
Next there’s a behind-the-scenes bus tour to visit the vast launch pads from which the Apollo moon missions took off, and the lab where the Mars SLS (Space Launch System) shuttle is being built. Suddenly, the Kennedy Space Center stacks up pretty well against Florida’s more frivolous theme-park fun.
And that’s before we’ve got to the rockets on show, including Saturn V, the 363ft beast that fired 21 brave astronauts towards the moon. Gazing up, you feel as small as an ant under a juggernaut. This is rocket science but here, at least, it’s child’s play. kennedyspacecenter.com
Space attractions in numbers
The number of dimensions you can explore space in at Bristol’s new digital planetarium, with shows that probe the edges of our Solar System. at-bristol.org.uk
The number of years since Star Trek began. Celebrate by becoming a Star Fleet cadet at New York’s Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum and learn all about 26th-century tech. intrepidmuseum.org
The number of miles above the earth you can virtually travel in the Space Elevator, one of the interactive exhibits at the National Maritime Museum’s new Above and Beyond exhibition. rmg.co.uk
Published in the September 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)