LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Space travelers just want to have fun.
According to several veteran shuttle astronauts, future space tourists should carefully plan their out-of-this-world experiences: Plot out your favorite free-fall activities, carefully select your camera gear — but don't hog the window!
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A panel of U.S. astronauts — each a member of the Association of Space Explorers — offered their advice for commercial space travelers at the second International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight, held here as a prelude to the Wirefly X Prize Cup competition slated for October 20-21 at Las Cruces International Airport.
Former shuttle astronaut Tom Jones said that space travel is a "life-changing experience" for those lucky enough to do it.
"It ranks right up there with getting married or watching your children being born," he said.
Jones added that anybody taking a space voyage must make the most of it. There's nothing like falling around the planet every 90 minutes at 5 miles per second, he remarked.
One suggestion from Jones: Don't monopolize the window.
Space is "strange but wonderful", he explained, emphasizing the three-dimensional physical freedom afforded anybody in microgravity.
"Make the most of it. For the first time in your life, you'll be able to juggle in many cases," Jones observed.
Space tourists should make a "to-do" list before they depart Earth, whether it's for days of orbital flight or 10 minutes of suborbital weightlessness, he added.
Be it playing with water, tossing candy around, or just having face time at the spaceship window — "make a list and make a plan," Jones suggested.
Prioritize your activities
Astronaut Leroy Chiao added several key things to consider if you're ready for personal space travel.
"You can't really simulate it on the ground," Chiao said. "You can't really prepare for what it's really going to be like."
Chiao said an orbital space tourist should think ahead about what he's going to do, and should prioritize his activities.
"You won't believe how quickly a week will go by," Chiao said. "Take the time to enjoy the view. The Earth everywhere is beautiful."
Practice, practice, practice
Shuttle astronaut Mario Runco recommended studying geology before heading off into suborbital or orbital space so as to prepare oneself for the landscapes being cruised over.
Runco provided a tutorial on the right sort of cameras to haul into space, specifying certain f-stops and shutter speeds.
He also underscored that a space tourist needs to "practice, practice, practice" using photographic equipment before blastoff.
"Get your camera, buy the lenses, practice on the ground ... Take hundreds of photographs of your children, cars in traffic," Runco advised.
"You see your picture, you know what you did wrong ... Then take another one under very similar conditions," Runco explained.
His bottom-line suggestion: "If you're going to go through this effort ... don't take a happy-snap camera up there."
Chiao said that the space sickness experienced by many past space travelers is now being handled with medications.
"I go up into space ... no problem, and I feel great" Chaio said. "It's when I come back [that] it takes me a little while to get over the queasiness and dizziness."
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