SHOPPERS are promised an out-of-this-world experience as the country’s first Space Store opens in Oxfordshire this weekend.

Developed with scientists at the Harwell Campus, the new shop/ immersive experience has taken one of the empty units in Didcot’s Orchard shopping centre.

Visitors can try on a space suit, explore the caves of Mars via VR technology and watch live feeds from NASA’s Space Centre.

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Rocket scientist Stephen Ringler, the brains behind the concept, said he wanted to ‘bring the space experience to everybody.’

He said: “Only 250 people in history have had the chance to walk in space and only 550 have ever visited. For most of us, it is inaccessible.

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“We are trying to create a way for the public to experience what it’s like for themselves.

“I love the industry but feel frustrated that there is little connection to the public and all the cool things going on down the road.

“Most people don’t know that in Culham they are building an engine that could fly from London to Sydney in two hours.

“We are trying to change that.”

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Mr Ringler’s organisation has already run workshops and school visits but hasn’t had a permanent base in the area.

The store will also have a cafe and merchandise area where customers can buy games, prints, clothing, books and art.

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It hopes to attract both enthusiasts and young families as well as ‘the after-work crowd’ and tourists visiting the area.

It will start by offering two VR experiences – a space walk in zero gravity and a trip to explore the red planet.

Mr Ringler, who worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the United States before moving to Oxfordshire to work at Harwell, said that if the concept takes off in Oxfordshire, then it could be replicated all over the country.

He said: “We absolutely see it as something that could be done elsewhere.

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“We’ve been planning it for more than four years.

“If we can show it is profitable here, we will open all over the UK and all over the world.”

The shop has been developed with support from South Oxfordshire District Council’s economic development team.

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Robin Bennett, cabinet member for economic development and regeneration at SODC, said: “It’s important that our town centres are places to meet, learn and share ideas, not just retail parks, so I welcome Space Store coming to Didcot and thank our team for their hard work on this.

“My 11-year-old really enjoyed the recent science day at Cornerstone, and I’m sure many more young people will be inspired to pursue science.”

Space Store will launch this Saturday.