11 Amazing Space Travel Destinations

Fire up the jet pack, suck in some thin air, get a taste of zero g – it's time to take one small step for yourself, and a giant leap for humanity.

Fire up the jet pack, suck in some thin air, get a taste of zero g – it's time to take one small step for yourself, and a giant leap for humanity.

Our friends at Lonely Planet assembled as list of 11 destinations related to space travel for the obsessed. Now all you have to do is decide whether to view space from the ground or in the clouds.

11 Space Travel Destinations
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11 Amazing Space Travel Destinations (PHOTOS)

High on Palomar Mountain, at an elevation of roughly 5,900 feet to avoid light pollution, the Palomar Observatory in San Diego is simply spectacular – as large as Rome’s Pantheon.

It’s almost as beautiful as the Pantheon, too, with a classic design dating from the 1930s. The Observatory houses the world’s once-largest telescope, the 5.1m Hale Telescope, operated chiefly by computers now rather than humans. These days the observatory is chiefly used to track near-earth asteroids and is open to the public daily.

Located on the famous Cape Canaveral in Florida, this is the granddaddy of all space facilities, the launch pad for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, as well as the various space shuttles.

Remember masses of spectators gleefully cheering on astronauts ascending to the heavens; the Challenger shuttle falling to the sky to the horror of those watching…that’s all Kennedy. Anyone can witness history, as seen by Atlantis' final launch last week.

Fans of Borat may laugh, but Kazakhstan has at least one genuine tourist attraction: the Baikonur Cosmodrome, still under lease to the Russians.

This is the world’s oldest facility for launching space vehicles (Gagarin blasted off here) and has been a backdrop in Star Trek and William Gibson stories, among others.

Join a tour and geek out at the obligatory space museum, as well as seeing the facilities where rockets are prepared and the actual rockets themselves.

The Arecibo Observatory houses the world’s largest radio telescope, a beautiful structure (a work of art to many) featuring a huge, spherical reflector dish, nearly 985 feet in diameter, composed of 40,000 perforated aluminum panels embedded into the surrounding jungle.

Suspended by cables almost 460 feet above is a 900-tonne platform housing an extremely complicated system of antennas and units for focusing radio waves received from deepest space. It’s all far too complex to do justice to in 100 words. The telescope features in the films "GoldenEye" and "Contact." Thankfully, it is open to the public (or at least an observation platform is).

Like Arecibo, the VLA in New Mexico is also featured in "Contact", as well as in 2010 (sequel to 2001) and "Independence Day" – both films about alien contact.

The VLA consists of 27 radio antennas, each 82 feet wide, arranged in a Y-shape, with one arm of the array extending 13 miles. Each antenna can be moved to various positions on locomotive tracks and the output of the entire array syncs together, effectively functioning as one super-antenna with an area of 22 miles.

Star City, Russia’s cosmonaut-training complex, was strictly off-limits up until 20 years ago. These days visitors can book a tour to Star City, which has its own shopping center, post office and train station.

While visitors won’t be able to peer in at the cosmonauts’ living or training quarters, they will be able to visit the awesome Space Museum, with its 20,000 exhibits including space suits, space vehicles and assorted Gagarinalia.

This gargantuan launch facility, some 930 miles from Beijing in the remote Gansu province, is where most Chinese space vehicles leave Earth. The center’s huge – about 1,800 square miles – and, China being China, is strictly off-limits to non-rocket types.

Still, people can visit Jiuquan, the small town it takes its name from. It’s in the desert, but because of the whole space infrastructure, it’s not as primitive as other isolated Chinese towns. And it boasts thoroughfares with names like ‘Space Road’, which is just awesome.

The RSC Energia Corporation built the Salyut and Mir space stations, the Soyuz rockets and numerous other extraterrestrial vehicles – the backbone of the Soviet space fleet.

Now they’ve put this exceedingly rich history on display in Moscow, showcasing everything from rusting descent modules to gleaming satellites and massive booster stages. The ‘60s selection is surely the best, featuring those exotic, grandiose, bulbous designs that seemed a million light years away from NASA’s functional hardware. Marvel at how three cosmonauts squeezed into a space the size of a closet; lie down on Mir’s bunk beds and dream of Mars.

The ISS has been inhabited since 2000 and was assembled in space; construction is ongoing. A joint project between the USA, Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency, the ISS promises to usher in a new age of spacey cooperation.

It costs a pretty penny to visit. Just ask Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist, who shelled out $20 million for seven days, 22 hours and four minutes aboard this box in the sky.

No, it’s not the complex where Ernst Stavro Blofeld launched his secret rocket fleet, only to be foiled by James Bond. In fact, Japan has a legal space program plan and Tanegashima is a vital cog in that, mainly used for satellite launches.

Located on Tane Island, 62 miles south of Kyushu, the center is open to the public, except when Japan’s space agency is shooting complicated hunks of metal into the air. Visit the launch complexes and interact with the wonderful full-scale simulacra of the Japanese Experiment Module.

The launch pad for Virgin Galactic, Spaceport America, is in New Mexico. Flights are expected to begin in the next couple of years, so just save up the $200,000 needed for a ticket. (Or take a tour of the spaceport, which started this spring.)


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