A visit to Japan's space center can be out of this world
The Tsukuba Space Center is the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s version of NASA mission control.
You can take an English-language tour there and see astronauts train and experts monitor the Japanese component of the International Space Station.
The tour involves a bus ride through a campus of uniform, white buildings in Ibaraki Prefecture. First stop is a training area where you can watch would-be astronauts go through their paces in orange jump suits. You might see them climb into an isolation chamber for a weeklong stay that gets people used to living in the sort of tight quarters they can expect in space.
You can check out medical facilities used for research on how working in space affects astronauts’ health. Scientists there are studying the impact of zero gravity on hearts, lungs, bones and muscles. Part of the research involves people sleeping in slanted beds designed to simulate the way microgravity causes fluids to flow into astronauts’ heads when there’s no strain on their bodies.
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