Some 23 miles north of Philadelphia -- amid the RadioShacks, golfing greens, and former corn fields of the Pennsylvania suburbs -- sits a low building with glass double doors and a bright blue awning. It's barely distinguishable from rows of office parks and dental labs. But it is a key destination on what has become America's epic journey to commercial space flight.
Inside it stand classrooms, training bays, and 15 flight simulators, including a state-of-the-art centrifuge that's like a giant clock arm set horizontal and spinning fast enough to simulate the G-forces of space flight. Its flight pod contains a mock-up altimeter, nerve-tingling surround sound speakers, a motion simulator that shakes your seat with the force of a rocket blast, and an Epcot-quality video feed that shows the Earth receding like a pebble in a pond behind you.
More than 300 future space tourists and civilian researchers from around the world have traveled here, to the National Aerospace Training and Research (Nastar) Center, to test their bodies and minds on this machine. … Read more