Care for a little space-based sightseeing? Feel the need to study abroad — really, really abroad? Well, fling away your Fodor’s and toss your TripAdvisor, because we have the only guided tour you’ll need — a foray into the final frontier so ambitious it will make the Voyager probes’ Grand Tours look like daytrips.
Of course, zipping off to distant planets, moons and stars isn’t as simple as thumbing a ride with a Vogon or booking passage with a Corellian smuggler and his Wookiee copilot. We’ll have to break a few laws of time and space. There’s a good reason Carl Sagan’s landmark series, «Cosmos,» resorted to a Spaceship of the Imagination: His destinations were mostly unspeakably dangerous or unreachably distant. And then there’s the problem of time: Because light obeys a speed limit, our pictures of stellar objects are actually images of the past. By the time we reach them, they might have changed or ceased to exist.
Fortunately, we recently found an indestructible, time-traveling ship in a box of TARDIS Flakes (part of a past or future nutritious breakfast). It comes complete with scanners that detect all spectra, so we’re guaranteed not to miss sights better seen in ultraviolet, infrared or X-ray. So, without further ado (and as another space-time traveler would say) … allons-y!
What better way to kick off your space sightseeing tour than following in the footsteps of the trailblazers? And what better place to honor space pioneers than the site where Apollo 11 touched down and humans first put boot to moon dust? Visit the Eagle lander, blow some dust off of the lunar laser ranging retroreflector array used by Earth-based scientists to measure lunar distance, and literally walk in the still-preserved footprints of Neil Armstrong. Then again, maybe you should just take pictures — and set up some really, really high museum rails to compensate for the moon’s low gravity (about one-sixth Earth’s).
Not coincidentally, Mare Tranquillitatis also happens to provide ideal landing conditions, by lunar standards. It’s flat, smooth and slopes a mere 2 degrees [source: NASA]. But why stop there? Head to Apollo 14’s Fra Mauro Formation and hunt down Alan Shepard’s golf balls, then take Apollo 17’s moon buggy for a spin around the Taurus-Littrow valley.
If nothing else, it’ll be worth the trip just to finally stifle those conspiracy wing nuts who say NASA staged the moon landings at a Burbank studio.