Playing as Astronaut
Inside the Star Fighter, the starry sky flies past on the ceiling and windows as passengers enjoy various attractions in a game-like environment. © Willer Travel
Tours involving rides on spacecraft-like vehicles are growing in popularity in Japan. The Star Fighter is a silver bus that looks just like a spacecraft and is designed to feel like a game where passengers are the spaceship crew.
With this bus tour, you can travel through space in search of a mysterious crystal that can grant any wish. During the journey to the bus destination, passengers can enjoy animations shown on in-seat screens, while operating their game controls to battle space pirates or participate in space-themed quizzes. The journey can be heart-stoppingly exciting! Some of the bus routes include a visit to the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), enabling passengers to immerse themselves in the world of science for a whole day.
Space travel is frequently compared to a grand voyage. The tourist boats Himiko and Hotaluna that tour Asakusa and other famous sites in Tokyo every day are designed to look like sleek spacecraft that would not be out of place in a Star Wars movie. They give a certain romance to the journey. These boats were designed by Leiji Matsumoto, the author of the popular animation Galaxy Express 999 that is even known overseas. The boats give passengers a fun ride, including on-board announcements by some of the characters that featured in Galaxy Express 999.
|The Hotaluna tourist boat is designed to look like a spacecraft, went into service in 2012. ＜HOTALUNA＞ © M・T・T||
On board the Hotaluna, passengers can view the futuristic Tokyo night sky.
＜HOTALUNA＞ © M・T・T
Training to Be Astronaut
If you want to become an astronaut, what tests do you have to take and what training programs would you do? At the Tsukuba Space Center operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Japanese government body responsible for space development, you can take a tour and also try out various simulated training programs.
Left: External view of the training facilities for confined-space adaptation actually used in the selection of astronauts © JAXA
Right: Type of training undertaken within the confined-space adaptation training facilities © Advanced Engineering Services Co.
Space-walk training using partial reconstruction of the Japan-built Kibo laboratory, the largest laboratory on the ISS © Advanced Engineering Services Co.
The programs include training for a space walk outside the ISS or operating a remote-controlled rover on the Moon. One of the most unusual programs is the simulated confined-space training that was designed for use in selecting actual astronauts. The equipment is divided into a cylindrical confined space and a control room. You get to understand the difficulties of actually living in space for long periods by attempting to complete a picture by using only verbal instructions or assembling a completely white puzzle.
Half a century has passed since the first manned rocket was launched into space. The various scientific events in Japan give you a taste of the future where anyone can venture into space.