Lunch with an astronaut

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Florida Guide > Dining

Lunch with an astronaut

If like me you have an interest in the NASA space programme, you’ll enjoy Lunch with an Astronaut. It’s one of the best things we’ve done on our many trips to Florida

Held in a large air conditioned room you are seated on round tables you are invited by staff to help yourself to the buffet. The meal won’t win any gourmet awards but it is fine for this type of event - for example chicken, rice, bread, salad and mixed vegetables. There is also a selection of cold gateaux’s, cakes and cookies. Cold drinks, coffee and iced tea are freely available.

Whilst you are getting your food and the room is filling up, three screens, which are well positioned on a wall, run film footage of astronauts living on the International Space Station. Many questions you have, or always wondered, may be explained. For example how do astronauts keep clean - ie wash, shave and cut their hair when they are on long journeys! You see how they exercise and how easy it is to move around with no gravity. If you think about it, if you could use the space both on the floor and close to the ceiling, a room wouldn’t feel cramped! The film footage runs a few times to allow those who enter the room a little later the opportunity to see it.

Then your astronaut is introduced and you hear so many interesting facts and small details. Our astronaut was Jack Lousma who trained with the Apollo missions and the early Shuttle missions. His experience was vast and varied. Joined NASA in 1966, was support crew for Apollo 9, 10 and 13. He famously was the ‘capcom’ recipient of the “Houston, we have a problem”. He was selected for Apollo 20 but it was cancelled. He piloted for Skylab3 in 1973 and was Commander on STS-3 in 1982. He spent 1, 619 hours in space and did 2 spacewalks.

Jack was a comfortable speaker – very informative, interesting and amusing – very relaxed. I won’t tell you what he said – you may be lucky enough to hear him yourself one day and I don’t want to spoil it!

Of the questions asked, from all ages, the two I found interesting were “What, if any, medical problems have there been with astronauts? ” He said he had heard that astronauts could be more prone to cataracts and bone density loss. Whilst in space astronauts bone density suffers. most, not all, returns. The other question was “Would you rather do short or long trips in space? ” Jack’s reply was he’d choose to do long trips as if you had to prepare and train for so long, it is great to be in space for longer missions. I didn’t have time to ask my question but he did answer it when we had our photo taken. I wanted to know if the landing on land, as the Russians do, is hard compared to the sea landings the Americans do. Jack explained the Russians have engines which operate one second before landing which they use to counteract the touchdown making it softer. He and I agreed the sea sounded much softer!

Before you leave you have an opportunity to have your photo taken with your astronaut and NASA staff also take one with your own camera.

I have to admit that I didn’t get my desert – I was so interested in the presentation that all but the cookies had gone when I finally returned to the buffet table! This event will certainly spark more interest in future space missions.

NASA regular schedules this event, which you will need to book in advance due to its popularity. At the time of booking, you will know which astronaut is scheduled to be at your lunch. I would definitely do the lunch again as every astronaut has a different career and story to tell.

For more information or to reserve call 321 449 4400. Reservations can also be made online. The lunch is US$ 48. 28 for adults and US$29. 68 for children in addition to the normal entrance.

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