For many getting to try our hand at the shuttle simulator was the highlight of the NASA Tweetup (for me that honor went to seeing Mission Control, more on that later). This is the same simulator the astronauts actually trained on. We were broken up into groups of four, and of the four a pilot was randomly chosen. I breathed a sigh of relief when I wasn't chosen to pilot for our group. I was able to sit back and experience what it's like to take off into space without the anxiety that went along with having to actually pilot the thing. There are a ton of buttons and just climbing into the simulator was nerve-wracking. Clearly, I'm not cut out to be an astronaut!
Once in the claustrophobia-inducing cockpit, we strapped ourselves into our seats with a five point harness not at all unlike a child's car seat. We put on the headset that allowed us to communicate with "the ground" and some other equipment (it was implied that the box we wore on our chest determined whether or not we survived our landing). The sim starts out at t-minus two minutes to blast off.
The first sensation you feel is the force of the room's gravity on your gut as the shuttle begins to point upwards, putting the crew on our backs, facing up. Then the shaking starts. Lots and lots of shaking. It's fairly intense and we were told that the simulator is "less violent" than an actual take off. As you can see in the video below I look like I'm about to toss my cookies, so again...not really astronaut material.
|My name in the Shuttle Simulator Guest book.|