Aboard Shuttle Experience, an amusement-ride-cum-astronaut-flight-simulator at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, riders buckle up for a simulation of the 17,500-mph liftoff of a shuttle orbiter. The eight-and-a-half-minute ride begins with a preflight briefing video starring former astronaut Charles Bolden.

Seat rumblers rattle riders as the main engines ignite while airbags sink and rise to simulate the turbulent reentry.

Experience the Thrill of Space Travel

A team of veteran NASA astronauts and renowned attraction designers conceived Shuttle Launch Experience, which simulates the 17,500-mph launch of a real space shuttle. This authentic experience features sophisticated motion technology, special effects seats, and high-fidelity visual and sound presentations, like the most loved experiences in the Disneyland airport shuttle.

Visitors enter along a gantry-styled walkway into a building inspired by the shuttle processing facilities at Kennedy Space Center. There, they watch video testimonials from former astronauts and then line up to strap into a module that fits tidily into a space shuttle cargo bay. Then, after a countdown, seat rumblers and other perceptual tricks recreate the sensation of the main engines firing up for simulated liftoff.

Once in orbit, the spacecraft’s cabin rotates to give passengers a feel of weightlessness as it soars above the Earth, rising to 328,000 feet, the point beyond which NASA defines space (though the Karman line is about 62 miles). Then, as the shuttle prepares to return home, the cabin is tilted back down for reentry and landing.

Become an Astronaut

Becoming an astronaut is the ultimate dream of many people. But even though the odds of becoming one are incredibly slim, it is possible to get close enough to experience space travel.

The Shuttle Launch Experience offers just that. The ride allows riders to experience a shuttle launch without an advanced degree in aeronautical engineering. Before boarding the simulator, visitors watch a video briefing from former NASA astronauts who helped design the attraction.

It is a sobering reminder that becoming an astronaut is a considerable undertaking and requires a lot of hard work. It also involves a significant amount of luck and the right connections.

The good news is that the number of opportunities for aspiring astronauts is growing by the day. In the future, people may travel into space on commercial ventures like Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin, as well as with NASA. The most important thing to get there is to start by picking a career that fits your long-term goal of being an astronaut and then work to make that dream a reality.

Experience the Exhilaration of Flight

There’s nothing like the sensation of blasting into space. The thrill of being liberated from Earth’s gravity and the beauty of seeing the patchwork quilt of its colors rushing past.

That feeling can be experienced by anyone at the new Shuttle Launch Experience, which debuted May 25 at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Developed in consultation with astronauts, NASA experts, and attraction designers, the $60 million ride simulates the sights, sounds, and sensations of a Shuttle launch.

The attraction’s four simulators can accommodate 44 people. They are housed in a building inspired by the shuttle processing facilities that once dotted the complex. As visitors rise along a gantry-style walkway, astronaut testimonials set the stage for what’s ahead: a simulated Shuttle launch.

During the five-minute experience, passengers hear and feel the excitement of liftoff preparations and then the simulated trip’s thrill to 17,500 miles per hour. During the final stage of ascent, the simulator reaches LEO, where passengers can maneuver the “Canadarm” to deploy and repair satellites or position themselves for spacewalks.

Explore the Universe

During the Space Shuttle program, NASA astronauts explored the universe and pushed the limits of human exploration. In 30 years, the fleet of orbiters, including Endeavour, flew 135 missions, inspiring generations of dreamers to reach for the stars.

The Shuttle Launch Experience takes visitors on a ride through the sensations of blasting into Earth’s orbit. Designed with the help of shuttle astronauts and industry experts, this authentic launch simulation utilizes motion-based platforms, special effects seats, and high-fidelity visual and audio presentations to immerse passengers in the sights, sounds, and sensations of launching at 17,500 mph.

The experience begins along a gantry-style walkway into a building architecturally inspired by shuttle processing facilities at Kennedy Space Center. Then, guests strap in for an eight-and-a-half-minute simulated ascent into orbit guided by a veteran shuttle commander. Visitors enter the crew cabin, surrounded by state-of-the-art technology that creates the feeling of increased g-forces and weightlessness while utilizing sound, plasma screen movement, and floor “rumblers” to deliver the whole experience of blastoff.