Credit: San Diego Air and Space Museum
By Jonathan Stroud
Explore the solar system at the San Diego Air and Space museum’s newest exhibit, “Be the Astronaut,” on display now.
The new exhibit allows visitors to build their own spacecraft and rovers to test in the unforgiving environments of space. This interactive experience features three stations where guests create and control their spacecraft on Mars or Jupiter’s moons, or fly over celestial bodies such as the asteroid belt in our solar system.
Using touchscreen monitors at individual stations, the museum helps to promote interactive STEM-based learning that educates visitors about the challenges of space travel.
The museum’s Director of Education Francis French told Journalists For Space, “I love walking into this museum everyday because we have real spacecraft, lots of real aircraft, and things that have traveled in space. The great thing about this exhibition is that it takes it further. There’s things you can’t do in everyday life that you can do in this exhibition…you can simulate launching from Earth, traveling to the moon, traveling onto Mars so it really puts those other historic artifacts in context. It really is a nice visit to the museum; you get to do the historic and the future all in one go.”
The exhibit is filled with physical artifacts, models, memorabilia, and other signage, such as a full-scale mock Apollo space suit that is not featured in the museum’s regular displays. The three stages of this interactive experience are the Nav Modules, Sci Modules, and the Fly Modules. Visitors are greeted at each station by virtual crew experts who assist them through each stage.
During the first Nav Module stage, also known as the Celestial Navigation, the basic principles of energy and motion physics are introduced to the guests. The Sci Modules, short for Science and Technology, introduce a drag-and-drop interface that teach guests about the science and technology required for human survival in space. For the Fly Module, the final stage, guests enter a seated cockpit that has animated lighting, a 70-inch giant screen, a joystick, and video game effects which highlight the math and engineering elements involved in human spaceflight.
The “Be the Astronaut” exhibit also has an iPad App that both complements and helps to extend the adventure.
According to museum Education Resources Coordinator Ross Davis, “Working with NASA, this exhibit has developed things based on actual plans to travel off-world. If we were to go back to the moon or when we visit Mars, museum guests get to see what it would be like here with the newest technology and newest landers by visiting this exhibit. If NASA was given unlimited money and resources, this is what it would look like.”
The exhibit, for a small additional cost to admission, is currently on display for a limited time. If you’re near the San Diego area, take a break from the Xbox, Playstation, and Wii for a visit to the museum’s latest interactive experience.
Find out more about the exhibit and reserve your tickets by Clicking Here.
What do you think of the newest interactive exhibit? Do you think it’s a good way to engage and get people excited for STEM learning? Leave a comment below with your thoughts and let us know if you plan on checking it out.
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