Made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation, Outreach to Space was designed as a collaborative project between ten museums and the respected exhibit designers at San Francisco’s Exploratorium. Built to withstand the rigors of children’s experimentation, the Outreach to Space exhibits have traveled to several fairs, festivals, and community events throughout the Wabash Valley.
The twelve exhibit pieces were each designed to teach adults and children about a principle related to Space or Space travel through hands-on exploration. With a focus on visiting rural and underserved communities, Outreach to Space was viewed by thousands of people during its three years of grant-supported touring.
These exhibits are currently housed on the third floor of our facility. Stop by to check them out for yourself!
Outreach to Space is comprised of the following exhibit pieces:
1. Gloves in a Box
Practice using a wrench to fasten a sign onto the exhibit base while your hands are inside thick gloves. Astronauts must perform many tasks while wearing heavy space suits and bulky gloves…it’s not as easy as it looks!
2. Different Worlds, Different Weights
Most people know that they would weigh less on the Moon than they do on Earth, but it’s hard to grasp just how drastic the differences can be from planet to planet. With this exhibit, children can compare the weight of an apple on Earth against the weight of an apple on other bodies in the Solar System.
3. Gravity Well
How do spacecraft enter into orbit around planets and moons without crash landing due to gravity’s pull? Can you get a marble to stay in “orbit” around our gravity well, or will your marble spiral down into the center?
4. Big Dipper
The constellations that we view from Earth are a matter of perspective. If we traveled to another planet, the night sky would look very different! Take a look at a 3D model of the Big Dipper…how does it change when viewed from a direction other than head-on?
5. Star Spectrum
Many people assume that all stars are white and twinkly, but if you observe the night sky, you can often find stars that are red, orange, yellow, and even blue. By analyzing the light that shines from stars, scientists can learn a lot about each star’s temperature and chemical composition. Compare the spectra of three elements to see how they differ.
6. Pressure Suit
The space suits worn by astronauts serve many important functions, including shielding the body from the vacuum of Space. Without a pressurized suit, the human body would expand to about two times its normal size. Pump air out of the exhibit chamber and see what happens to the two “Bug Out Bob” aliens inside, one fitted with a pressurized helmet and one exposed to the dropping pressure.
7. Space Colony
NASA hopes to send astronauts to Mars by the year 2035. What will their vehicles and equipment look like? Will humans someday establish a colony on Mars or another body in Space? With LEGOs and a little bit of imagination, children can construct their own visions for the future of Space exploration.
8. Aim for Orbit
When launching a spacecraft into orbit around the Earth or another body in Space, NASA must calculate carefully. If the spacecraft is traveling too fast, it can continue on past orbit into Space. If the spacecraft is going too slow, it can be pulled down by the object’s gravity. A customized pinball launcher simulates the challenge of finding just the right velocity to enter into orbit around a planet.
9. Steering with Thrust *
Flight is different in Space, where there is no air for wings to use for banking and turning. Spacecraft use thrusters to change direction, and it’s not as simple as it sounds. Use currents of air to simulate steering a Space Shuttle with thrusters. Can you stay on target?
10. Mars Rocket *
Launching a spacecraft to another planet is not as simple as counting down and lifting off. The spacecraft must be launched at just the right time so that it arrives at the target’s orbital path just as the target itself is arriving. The launch window for Mars is briefly open on a period of 780 days. If a spacecraft misses its chance to launch, it has to wait just over two years to try again! Simulate the careful timing it takes by launching a marble “rocket” from Earth to Mars.
11. Rocket Launch †
Space flight is a little different from airplane flight. In order to escape Earth’s gravity, rockets must be propelled upward with a lot of force. For a real rocket, this propulsion is generated by hot pressurized exhaust generated by the combustion of rocket fuel. In our exhibit, the propulsion comes from pressurized air. Pump up your “fuel tanks” and launch your rocket up to fifty feet in the air!
12. Sunspotter †
Everyone knows that it’s never safe to look directly at the Sun. The Sunspotter scope projects an image of the Sun onto a blank white base, allowing safe observation of sunspots and solar flares as they occur.
* Mars Rocket and Steering with Thrust require electricity
† Sunspotter and Rocket Launch can only be used outdoors