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We tested the incredible LuneXplorer from the Cité de l’espace

This is the new flagship experience of the Cité de l’espace in Toulouse! The LuneXplorer takes you to the Moon with the Artemis astronauts through an extraordinary sensory experience and breathtaking realism. Futura was able to do the test alongside the very first visitors.

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Already in 2022, the Cité de l’espace opened its Martian show with the arrival of a Martian field where scientific animators pilot life-size replicas of the Perseverance and Zhurong rovers. More recently, the Cité de l’espace revealed to the public an asteroid sample brought back by the Japanese probe Hayabusa-2. Today, to stay at the heart of current events, the City is taking us to the Moon with the LuneXplorer, in a highly immersive and sensory experience, including a centrifuge!

In the shoes of a moon walker

The experience lasts approximately 40 minutes and begins with a comparison between the Apollo and Artemis lunar programs, using a speech given by a facilitator and several models. From the start, it is emphasized that Artemis has a strong international dimension, with the participation of the European Space Agency which provides the Orion lunar spacecraft service module for each mission.

Before settling into the centrifuge, we are entitled to a short briefing, carried out neither more nor less by European astronauts Thomas Pesquet, Samantha Cristoforetti and Matthias Maurer. With the participation of former European and French astronaut Claudie Haigneré.

Simulation of a lunar flight: up to 2g!

Before taking off, we are installed in a capsule and placed in an atmosphere whose realism has been very well anticipated. We are witnessing the Go no-go Poll from the control center, as the astronauts intend. This final round of discussions between operators gives the green light to the launch.

The centrifuge starts up and simulates several phases of the lunar flight, which here lasts a few minutes (instead of four days in reality!). Capsule passengers experience up to 2g (traveling patients refrain!). If the astronauts of the Artemis missions will rather experience 3 to 4g at takeoff from the SLS, we are getting closer to the “comfort” of the passengers of Blue Origin’s New Shepard (small rocket which takes us to 100 kilometers of altitude, the border of the ‘space). Once the centrifuge phase is completed, a debriefing is carried out by Thomas Pesquet and Matthias Maurer.

An experience of a new dimension offered by the Cité de l’espace

The LuneXplorer is an old project, whose origins go back more than ten years. According to Jean-Baptiste Debois, general director, it is not a question of offering an alternative to space tourism, where the experience would be based solely on sensations. We are rather talking here about “ put yourself in the shoes of an astronaut who goes on a mission to the Moon » where, in fact, the acceleration phases are short compared to the entire mission: “ the dynamic phase lasts 5 minutes, over a 40-minute course “. The LuneXplorer aims above all to be a vector of sharing: “ we are both in space news and in popular science », specifies Jean-Baptiste Debois, who summarizes the project as “ an important brick that we add to the Cité de l’espace “.

How did the Cité de l’espace manage to provide such realism? “ We have worked a lot with Medes, Cnes, astronauts and the EAC, the ESA astronaut training center (EAC) », confides Jean-Baptiste Debois. Christophe Chaffardon, who manages all scientific mediation and museography, adds, “ beyond the acceleration, it’s the whole scenography. In a capsule, there are different types of noise. We worked on it well in advance with astronauts like Jean-François Clervoy, ESA astronauts and even Franck de Winne, the boss of the ESA astronauts, who gave us some indications on this realism. Then we worked with scenographers, museographers, people who develop audiovisuals and who are capable of putting atmospheres in the capsule so as to be as close as possible to reality.”

The LuneXplorer is a unique experience in the world, in the sense that we share the sensations of the Artemis astronauts while explaining their mission. Jean-Baptiste Debois specifies: “ the astronauts Jean-François Clervoy, Claudie Haigneré, and Philippe Perrin came and told us “we cannot describe what we experience when we go into space” “. The LuneXplorer rather offers to experience it, an experience that we can only recommend!

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