We went to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)!
While figuring out where to go to do something that we’ve never done before in Tokyo, Reza discovered that JAXA’s Tsukuba Space Center is open to visitors. It got him excited, then he began studying the place and doing all the planning.
So the next day, we boarded the bus at Tokyo station and headed to Tsukuba. The journey was about an hour and the bus stopped directly in front of the space center. Ta-da!
Registered ourselves at the reception and got our visitor tags first.
The Rocket Square
So we explored the grounds. First thing we saw was this square. Later I learned that it’s an actual huge ass H-II rocket that we saw at the square, only it never took off. I forgot the reason.
The Space Dome
So there’s a Space Dome where we learned about the history of space exploration, then about the rockets and satellites JAXA built and sent to space and their involvement in space exploration.
The good thing about this visit is that there are elderly English-speaking volunteers ready to escort you and explain about each exhibit in detail. The exhibits include life size prototypes of satellites made of the real stuff and the International Space Station (we were just watching the Big Bang Theory episode of Howard going crazy on the space station :lol:). Some of the exhibits were interactive, too. Each had info cards in both Japanese and English.
Flight Control Room and Astronaut Training Facility
There are also guided tours that visitors can book. One is for the tour of the Flight Control Room to see the realtime activities of KIBO (the Japanese Experiment Module on the ISS) and the other, the Astronaut Training Facility.
Since we planned this at the last minute, Reza could only make reservations for the Flight Control Room. We boarded the bus from the Space Dome to the Flight Control Room, where devices were all taken away from us temporarily since we’re not allowed to record any of the experience.
From this point on the guide for this tour was speaking only in Japanese, so I had Reza translate whatever she said. From the glass window we could a mini version of the NASA control room that’s often depicted in the movies, where all the operators were sitting in the small screens on their desks and further at the front, was a huge screen on the wall, displaying real time images of KIBO as it travels in space.
You should see Reza’s face at the time -_-
Planet Cube is where you can have a drink at JAXA’s ill-stocked coffee shop and shop for souvenirs at the museum shop. Here’s the kind of packed food astronauts eat when they’re up there (we saw it in the exhiibtion at Space Dome, earlier), up for sale:
We got access cards to the cafeteria for lunch, from the reception. The cafeteria uses the prepaid coupon system, where we ordered our dishes on the prepaid machine and it’ll produce the coupon that we can show to the chefs to get our meals. There were some fish and vegetarian options, so it was okay. We were sitting among the JAXA staff wearing JAXA tags. That also got Reza excited.
It was a worthwhile day’s trip! Think we learned so much within a day. I definitely recommend this to all the space geeks who have time to spare to travel outside of Tokyo.
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