You have to overcome the slight apprehension that sets in when boarding the immaculate white capsule of the “LuneXplorer” exhibition. On this sanitized vessel, the experience that takes place is unprecedented in Europe. The Cité de l’espace, in Toulouse, promises visitors to feel the unique sensations of taking off a rocket and landing on the moon. As ? Thanks to a centrifuge that was supposed to reproduce the acceleration of a space trip, like those used by astronauts for training.
Before embarking on the adventure, four astronauts from the European Space Agency (ESA), including the essential Thomas Pesquet, inform visitors on video and give their advice for this “mission”. Next, each crew of four visitors enters reproductions of the Orion capsule, the vehicle used in NASA’s program to return humans to the Moon, the Artemis.
With our seatbelts fastened, the countdown began and we took off with a bang worthy of Starship, the SpaceX rocket that should be used in these future lunar missions. No sensation of spinning in this centrifuge, but rather the surprising sensation of tipping over backwards and taking off toward the stars. Through the windows, which hide screens, the sky darkens as the speed increases. The acceleration intensifies to 2 g, the body, which at that moment weighs twice its own weight, flattens to the bottom of the seat. It quickly becomes difficult to move and reach out to press the buttons that a voice asks us to touch.
A sensorial and interactive journey
The Moon is getting closer and closer and a certain emotion arises when seeing the craters, so familiar and at the same time so distant. After landing on the Moon, we were surprised to admire the light of Earth shining through the porthole. The astronauts reappear to explain the sensations felt and share the “mission data” – altitude, speed, duration – which they compare with those of a real trip to the Moon. This is the aim of the Cité de l’espace, to educate visitors through sensoriality and interactivity: “The experience of takeoff can be told, with words or images, but nothing replaces the physical sensation to understand what astronauts really experience on board a rocket”guarantees Christophe Chaffardon, director of education, science and culture at the Cité de l’espace.
Also listen The Moon, future human colony?
More than fifty years after humans took their last step on the Moon, during the Apollo-17 mission in 1972, the United States is preparing to return there to set up long-term bases. If the announced deadline of 2025 seems to be an increasingly difficult commitment to fulfill, this new journey should take place in the coming years. And it is with this in mind that Cité de l’espace wanted to highlight lunar travel, respecting its commitment to always be at the forefront of space news.
The experience is accompanied by explanations about the history of Apollo and its current heir, Artemis, with examples of rockets, ships and space facts. There is no doubt that the exhibition will evolve alongside future advances in the next great human adventure in space.
“LuneXplorer”, at the Cité de l’espace, in Toulouse. Accessible to adults and children over 1.30 meters tall and people with reduced mobility. Quote-space. with