The Astronaut Training Experience® (ATX) at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opened to the public in 2018 with the goal of inspiring the next generation to take an active role in the future of space exploration. By immersing the participants in hands-on, space-related team challenges, we help them imagine themselves as astronaut trainees and get a taste of what it would be like to live and work in space and on Mars. The ATX motto is Train. Adapt. Survive. This motto is not just for space explorers – it applies to all of us, every day.
From the time we are very young, we train for life on Earth. We learn how to walk, how to talk, how to eat and how to handle personal hygiene before we ever set foot in a formal school. Once we reach a certain age, we begin training to learn the skills that will allow us to succeed as citizens in our various nations and cultures. This training teaches us to adapt to an ever-changing environment, whether it be at home, school or the workplace. While we mark some of the changes with milestones that social media calls “life events” – birthdays, graduations, weddings, divorces, new jobs, new homes – we also deal with countless smaller changes every day, and even the smallest requires some degree of adaptation. Those who become skilled at training and adapting are able not only to survive, but to thrive!
Those who want to live away from Earth must train for challenges we have only begun to imagine. To adapt to life in microgravity, astronauts need to learn how to move, eat, sleep and handle personal hygiene all over again! They must also learn a complex set of skills that allow them to fix anything that breaks (including the human body) and carry out experiments in every field of science. They need to stay focused, think fast and handle life-and-death emergencies. It is a job too big for any one person, so astronauts train to function – and survive – as part of a team.
Condensing a process that takes years into an experience that lasts only a few hours, ATX gives students ages 10 and older a chance to train like astronauts using simulators, virtual reality and teamwork as they learn what it takes to live and work away from Earth. In the process, they acquire some tools they can also use at home and in the classroom to increase their chances of success:
- ATTITUDE. View change as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. Try new things as an adventure and do not worry about failure – no one gets everything right on the first try!
- TEAMWORK. Rely on others and let them rely on you. Know your place on the team, do your part and encourage your teammates as they do theirs. Learn together.
- IMAGINATION. A little bit of role play goes a long way when the goal is adaptation. Picture the future you are working toward and see each change as a step toward that goal.
- IMMERSION. Human beings have many senses, and the more of them that are actively involved in gathering information, the easier it is to learn and adapt to new situations.
- DISCOVERY. When you figure something out for yourself, you understand it better and remember it longer. Sometimes you need input from someone who has already been where you are going, but a teacher, coach or personal trainer should provide encouragement and insights to help you discover solutions to the challenges you face along the way.
NASA’s exploration of space benefits life on Earth in countless ways. The skills and training needed to conduct that exploration are equally useful on Earth. The future begins now! It starts with a spirit of adventure, a mind that can imagine impossible achievements and a team willing to work together to grasp opportunities and overcome obstacles. Not everyone can become an astronaut and go into space, but we can all benefit from training like an astronaut. Train. Adapt. Survive.