Payload Blog

Are You Ready to Launch to Mars?

The all new Astronaut Training Experience (ATX)® located at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex features an opportunity for anyone 10 and older to serve as both a member of launch control and as a part of the Orion capsule crew during a simulated mission launch. This program is also perfect when searching for the ultimate STEM field trip.

ATX Logo

The new ATX Center advances on the original Astronaut Training Experience concept and based upon design principles rooted in STEM learning at Kennedy Space Center. These seven design principles inform the mission of education at the visitor complex:

  1. Programs are founded on authentic science and engineering.

  2. Activities will be fun.

  3. Participants engage in activities promoting communication and collaboration skills.

  4. Activities seek a balance between physical and virtual experiences.

  5. Programs, activities and facility are sustainable.

  6. Resources from beyond the facility are used.

  7. Education programs strive for a very high standard.


ATX will provide an opportunity for students to train like an astronaut preparing for a mission to Mars. The five-hour program is divided into Launch Mission, Living and Working in Space, and Mars Operations.

In the new ATX Launch Mission, six people will be strapped into seats in the Orion capsule while six more manage the mission Launch Control. Each person will have a touch screen computer that provides a mission time-line, information as to what you should be monitoring, warnings as to what decisions will be needed to succeed, status of work being performed by others in the group, and a script of calls to make on the communications system. Work fast! You are under a time limit to ensure the capsule reaches its destination safely. As launch control and astronauts, students work together to solve anomalies and emergencies facing the mission. The big idea behind the simulation is to provide an opportunity for participants to feel the excitement of being a part of a launch team while practicing critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills.




Don't miss Mars Base 1 either, the companion program to ATX. Set in a landscape of the future, students, or Rookie Astronauts, will manage the Base Operations Center on Mars, harvest plants in the Botany Lab, program robots to optimize solar energy and adapt to the challenges of living on Mars.