Mesa museum’s NASA exhibit brings the unknown close to home - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Mesa museum’s NASA exhibit brings the unknown close to home

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Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 8:21 am | Updated: 11:56 am, Fri Jan 25, 2013.

Children crowd around touch screens as their parents and teachers look over their shoulders. The group is huddled together in a tunneled, dark room reminiscent of a space ship control room — with walls lined with lit up diagrams and interactive video screens.

“Space is this unknown. There’s this excitement and thrill in the unknown and we can be part of that discovery,” said Kathy Eastman, curator of education at the Arizona Museum of Natural History.

Now through March 24, kids and those young at heart can visit an exhibit at the museum that takes the International Space Station and NASA research accessible from Earth.

“I’ll look in there and they’ll be sitting on the floor, reading the whole wall,” Eastman said.

A typical display attracts about eight seconds of focus before most people move on, Eastman explained.

“It’s always a fun time,” she added.

The exhibit is designed to teach the public the importance of the International Space Station as it conducts experiments of importance here on Earth, Eastman said.

“The International Space Station is a really important part of our lives, but it’s not something that we see in our daily lives,” Eastman said.

Research in water filtration to growing plants have all been conducted on the station and affect our how we conduct similar activities here on earth, she said.

“Through informal education, NASA is really good a providing that human connection, that our minds and hearts, we can feel that,” she said.

Historial memorabilia is an attention-grabber, too, as the exhibit showcases gloves astronauts use while conducting missions outside of the space station. The glass encasing the gloves is so close, visitors can see the traction on the fingers.

“One of the age groups that really seem to enjoy it are middle school age,” Eastman said. “They may not be attracted to some of the other exhibits, but I see them in there talking and discussing it.”

But even young kids who can’t read, point at the pictures of an astronaut with her hair floating above her head and the picture of the International Space Center superimposed over a football field to demonstrate the size, Eastman said.

The exhibit had their first NASA astronaut visit at the end of December, Eastman said. Joe Acaba spoke to a 150 people, ranging in age from little children to 92.

“He was really able to connect with everyone,” she said.

One boy asked the Acaba if he had ever vomited in space, she recalled.

“It was a question that only a kid would think to ask, but he explained what it’s like to be in space without gravity, after having been sent to the space station in a rocket,” she said. “He answered every question and explained things that kids could understand.”

The museum will have another astronaut visit Sunday, Feb. 24, however NASA has not confirmed the exact astronaut.

Admission prices for the museum are $6 for children under 12, $8 for students with ID, $9 for seniors and $10 for adults. Children two and under are free. The museum is located at 53 N. McDonald, Mesa. It is closed Mondays and holidays. For more information, visit

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