June 30, also known as World Asteroid Day, Meteor Crater in Winslow unveiled their new 4D experience. Commander Perceus and First Officer Jackie — an animated bunny — take visitors on an expedition via STS Barringer to the bottom of the infamous crater, then to space.
Guests are shown an introductory video where they meet the crew, learn about the ship and prepare for the expedition. The entrance is full of chrome and metallic fixings, emphasizing the sci-fi aspects of the ride.
The chairs rock back and forth as the first-person point of view screens transport the audience to the bottom of the crater, then through the asteroid belt. The journey goes awry when Commander Perceus and First Officer Jackie, along with the viewers, encounter an asteroid which threatens Earth. The mission is to destroy it and save the planet.
The new 4D experience is kid-friendly, but can appeal to the whole family. It’s a fun addition to the park and while history and science are sprinkled throughout, it’s not as in-your-face educational as the other attractions available.
The new attraction comes with other changes to the natural landmark, such as the newly upgraded gift and rock shop and a bistro. A museum and theatre are also located on-sight to educate visitors about Meteor Crater.
“This is a living classroom,” said tour guide Christa Knox.
Approximately 50,000 years ago, an asteroid struck the Arizona desert, where what is now known as Winslow stands. According to Knox and various signs surrounding the park, Meteor Crater is the most well-preserved impact sight on Earth.
It’s history begins in 1891 when the United States Geological Survey (USGS) discovered the crater and claimed it a volcanic steam-vent. Meteor Crater wasn’t deemed an impact sight until the 1960s and is the first proven impact sight on Earth.
Daniel Barringer took over in 1903, obtained mining rights and spent 26 years attempting to find the asteroid. Barringer dug mine shafts which are still visible at the base of the crater.
Barringer never found what he was looking for, as it was later discovered the asteroid was vaporized. To this day, fragments are scattered around the crater and are available for sale in the gift shop.
NASA and USGS have utilized the crater for research and training since 1964. The crater provides substantial geological insight due to preservation and the clues the asteroid left behind. The rim of Meteor Crater is surrounded by sandstone rocks which contain quartz. By using Meteor Crater for research, NASA and USGS are able to deduce information about other impact sights, including those on the moon.
“This sandstone has quartz … but this quartz is not square, it’s flat. It’s been shocked,” said Knox. “These aren’t rocks, these are stories. All the rocks up here used to be 700 feet underground. We don’t need to drill on the moon because the rocks around the crater tell the story.”
Meteor Crater is not a national park, therefore receives no tax dollars, and remains open thanks to its many visitors. Meteor Crater is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with tours provided every half hour.