Your little explorers are used to high-flying adventures around town. Blast off to one more expedition at the brand-new interactive exhibit, Be the Astronaut at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. NASA experts helped design this stellar experience where your kids will virtually launch a rocket, pilot a spaceship and drive a surface rover. Your out-of-this-world adventure begins in 3…2…1…


1,2,3 Steps to 3,2,1, Blast Off
Kids will love having a hands-on role in this exhibit. There are three courses, Moon, Mars or Jupiter & Asteroids, that are divided into separate missions, with options such as: fly to the moon, land on the moon, or drive a rover on the moon. Each mission cycles through three different station types: NAV, SCI and FLY. Kids can get an Astronaut ID swipe card to use at each of these stations to track their journey. The ID card is theirs to keep, so they can return to the exhibit and pick up where they left off and continue their mission.


Mission Control at Their Fingertips
The exhibit features eight navigation stations, eight science stations and sixteen fly stations that are all equipped with touchscreens and a joystick controller to make navigation a cinch for tech-savvy kids. At the NAV station (short for celestial navigation), kids plan their mission. At the SCI station (short for science and technology), kids learn about space travel machines, the science of astronomy, and about how astronauts stay healthy and safe in outer space. The FLY station is where they’ll enter the simulator module, immersed in visual, lighting and sound effects to fly the spacecraft on the flight path they designed.

Virtual astronauts are on-screen and along for the ride to advise and educate your young pilots with instructions and narrations on the journey, offering insights such as “we’re about to break the sound barrier,” and “we are moving at 25,000 miles an hour now.”

Insider’s Tip: Younger kids will be in awe of this exhibit, but older children will be more equipped to comprehend the science and intricacies of each mission and better able to accurately navigate a mission at one of the flight stations.


Above and Beyond
Beyond the thirty-two stations, the Be the Astronaut exhibit has additional points of interest including a life-size spacesuit, and displays that explain more about the challenges, dangers and current research into space travel. Other topics visitors will learn about include food and nutrition for astronauts in space, the effects of microgravity on the human body, and the dangers of radiation.


More Lunar Learning
The museum’s permanent Apollo 9 exhibit, located just before the entrance to the Be the Astronaut exhibit, is also a must-see. The real Apollo 9 command module (pictured above) is located here, and visitors get an up close view inside of it, and a real feel for the tight quarters in which astronauts travel. You’ll also see the transcripts and hear authentic voice recordings of the astronauts on this mission playing in the background. Don’t miss the collection of moon rocks brought back from the Apollo 11, 15 and 17 missions!

San Diego Air & Space Museum
2001 Pan American Plaza
San Diego, Ca 92101
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mon.-Sun.
Cost: $19.75/adults; $10.75/children 3-11 years; Free for children under 2
Note: The Be the Astronaut Exhibit costs an additional $5/person on top of the regular admission fee.

Will you check out this new exhibit? What are your insider tips for visiting the Air & Space Museum? 

Copy and Photos: Beth Shea