By Alan Fleck
The Perot museum welcomed a ‘Journey to Space’ exhibit, featuring a full-sized, rotating simulated International Space Station Destiny Lab module, robotics, water rockets, Neil Armstrong’s helmet and gloves, and a space-inspired playspace for future astronauts.
“At more than 10,000 square feet, this exhibit is one of largest exhibits the Perot has had,” said Dr. Linda Abraham-Silver, Eugene McDermott Chief Executive Officer of the Perot Museum, at the opening ceremonies for the exhibit on Oct. 19.
Presented in English and Spanish, the exhibit includes several interactive and hands-on displays, providing visitors opportunities to launch rockets, test gravity in a drop tower, and control a robotic arm. There are many video clips and explanations of daily life aboard the International Space Station, including eating food in space, sleeping, washing hair, exercising, and going to the bathroom in a weightless environment.
The exhibit’s main attraction is the rotating Destiny Lab mock-up. When guests board the mock-up, they truly feel like they are rotating in space. It is a feeling that lingers for a while afterward.
“For anyone who has ever dreamed of being an astronaut, or is just curious about our final frontier, this fascinating exhibition is about as close to space as one can get from Earth,” Dr. Abraham-Silver said. “Visitors can actually experience the sensation they’re floating in space on the exhibition’s rotating mock-up Destiny Lab, which is the primary research facility on the International Space Station.”
“It is pretty fascinating and cool to see a glimpse of life aboard the space station,” said Betty Strauss from Euless, one of the first visitors to view the exhibit.
The exhibit concludes by providing a large area that speculates about future space travel from Earth to Mars and beyond, and provides the ability for visitors to weigh-in on whether more money should be spent on future space travel.
A 20-minute film entitled Journey to Space 3D, narrated by Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Patrick Stewart, is available for viewing in the Hoglund Foundation Theater, a National Geographic Experience. The film explains how space exploration did not die with the end of the Space Shuttle program. Rather, some of the most exciting missions of our times are ahead–from capturing asteroids to landing astronauts on Mars.
Dr. Abraham-Silver introduced American hero and NASA pioneer, Astronaut General Tom Stafford, who attended the opening ceremonies. General Stafford was chosen to be part of NASA’s astronaut team in 1962 and flew on several Gemini and Apollo missions. He shared remarks about some of his experiences on these missions. General Stafford was also Commander of the Apollo-Soyuz mission, where the docking and famous handshake between the two spacecraft occurred July 17, 1975.
“You know the astronauts got all the publicity, but believe me, those people on the ground deserved as much credit as the astronauts did,” Stafford said. “They didn’t risk their lives, but they worked hard. It was a great team, all the way back to the contractors who put the spacecraft together. It was super–a great time. I just thank God I was there at that time.
“As a child, I did not have X-box or videos to watch. I studied hard and understood mathematics and science. When I made good grades, I rewarded myself by listening to radio shows including Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy and The Lone Ranger.
“Compared with mathematical capabilities available today via computer, a slide rule was the only thing I had growing up in a small Oklahoma town,” he said. When Stafford asked the audience of grown-ups and kids to raise their hands if they knew what a slide rule was, only some the older adults raised their hands.
The Journey to Space traveling exhibition came to the Perot in Dallas from the Frost Museum in Miami and is scheduled to go to the Boston Museum of Science when it leaves May 6.
The Perot museum is located at 2201 N. Field St. in Dallas. To learn more, visit perotmuseum.org .