To Infinity & Beyond: 5 Seriously Cool NASA Space Tours

Always wanted to explore the deep abyss that is space? Here’s your chance! (Photo by NASA via Unsplash)

Even if you’ve never been one to quit, the past few weeks have probably had you thinking, “Yeah, I’m out,” as you grab that imaginary jetpack to leave this planet with COVID-19 runs rampant all over Earth. And with some help from The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States, you might actually just be able to.

The aerospace experts are pulling out all the stops to help everyone pass the time at home with some seriously cool virtual tours. You didn’t think the independent agency in the US was actually offering free rides out to space, did you? So, if you’ve ever dreamt of taking an upwards dive into space, here are five tours available from NASA.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Go for flight

Thanks to Google Expeditions, phase 1 of the tour allows digital visitors to tour the historic aircraft displayed near the entrance to Armstrong Flight Research Center, the main administration building, an aircraft hangar, a control room, and the back-ramp area where aircraft final preparations for flight begin.

The newly launched Phase 2 of the virtual tour includes a view of the Dale Reed Flight Research Laboratory, the X-57 flight simulator where pilots practice missions, and Armstrong Flight Loads Laboratory. You can also sneak a peek at the Dryden Aeronautical Range control room and view F-/A18 jets readied for take-off on a flight mission from the centre’s aircraft ramp.

Prefer keeping both feet on the ground? Even virtually? Well, then you’re going to love getting a dose of history with these museum tours: 17 Museums To Visit Virtually While In Home Quarantine
Photo by Brian McGowan via Unsplash

Work on the Hubble Space Telescope

For you curious space explorers, you’ll be glad to know that NASA also provides a 360° virtual tour of the Hubble Space Telescope’s home for mission operations. The Space Telescope Operations Control Center (STOCC) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland includes visiting the lobby to learn about the spacecraft, the Mission Operations Room, the Operations Support Room, the exhibit hallway, and even a tour of the tools used by astronauts.

Break through to the stratosphere

Explore inside SOFIA, a Boeing 747SP aircraft NASA modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope up 45, 000 feet. The tour, as NASA explains, enables users to view the exterior of the aircraft and see the one-of-a-kind door covering the telescope cavity. During the virtual tour, guests can see inside the aircraft’s main deck, the flying mission control centre, as well as where scientists and mission directors control the telescope to view the stars, galaxies, and black holes in the great beyond.

Photo by NASA via Unsplash

NASA’s exoplanet excursions

Looking to answer the age-old question of whether we’re alone in the universe? This one’s for you. Developed by the IPAC Communications & Education group, NASA’s guided journey through the TRAPPIST-1 star system (known to be the home of seven Earth-size exoplanets orbiting a star that is only a little larger than Jupiter) includes a breakdown and tour of the telescope used to discover these far-off places.

Visit the International Space Station

Looking to stoke the educational flame for the space-obsessed little ones at home? You’ll want to bookmark this one. Step out of Earth’s atmosphere with NASA astronaut Suni Williams for a tour of the International Space Station where you can watch Williams float through space and show you all the really cool science gear on board this floating lab. And if you’ve got more questions, leaf through the e-books or listen in on the podcasts available for download on the site. Happy exploring!

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Sue May
Whiskey drinker. Whimsy finder. Word writer. Sue May is a fan of big words and arcane definitions. Fascinated with stories, this honorary Geordie enjoys stumbling down well-trodden paths, roads less travelled by, and meeting new people. (Sometimes she writes about them.)