Best Place for a Ride to Outer Space - 2012
Challenger Space Center
As each year passes, British billionaire Richard Branson seems to be inching closer to making his dreams of providing jaunts beyond the stratosphere a full-fledged reality. According to the website for his space tourism company Virgin Galactic, however, booking a ticket aboard a sub-orbital vehicle like the VSS Enterprise is expected to cost a hefty $200,000 per person. In other words, zooming well beyond the Kármán line, the sky-high boundary where the atmosphere ends and the rest of the universe begins, is likely going to be well beyond the means of your average person. Those seeking a more frugal foray into the final frontier (albeit of the faux variety) oughta consider an excursion to the Challenger Space Center. Besides housing a collection of space-related exhibits, astronaut ephemera, and monuments to the shuttle program (RIP), the Peoria attraction allows patrons to play the role of astronaut for a couple of hours. You can serve as a member of a flight crew manning a high-tech nerve center that mimics NASA command and control facilities or hop inside the "Earth Space Transit Module" for a simulated voyage to mockups of either a Martian colony or the International Space Station. It's nowhere near the same as actually slipping past the surly bonds of gravity and admittedly requires plenty of imagination to fully enjoy the experience. Then again, stretching the imagination is what led mankind to consider traveling into the cosmos in the first place.