Suit up and strap in! The Science Museum of Virginia is blasting guests into the cosmos this summer with the touring exhibition “Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience.”
Showcasing how astronauts live and work, “Space” opens Saturday, May 27, and runs through Labor Day. It features dozens of hands-on stations letting guests explore the extraordinary environment of space, including the dangers humans face during their missions and adaptations engineers have developed to help them survive. Unlike many space exhibitions that focus on the history of cosmic adventures, “Space” looks to the future, both in what scientific innovations will be needed and what considerations are involved when (not if!) we construct a colony on Mars.
“While many of us have probably imagined what it’s like to live in space, very few humans ever get the chance to go,” said Science Museum Astronomer Justin Bartel. “This exhibition offers the next-best experience to engage in that exciting journey in an immersive way.”
In the environmental protection section of “Space,” guests will learn about radiation, meteoroids and temperature extremes, and experiment with a vacuum chamber to determine if they can hear a bell in space. Next, they will explore the science of getting to space, such as the physics of the launch and the power needed on a spacecraft. Guests can use a 16-foot drop tower to investigate how objects behave differently in a weightless environment.
As guests enter the section on living and working in space, they can use a robot arm to move a ball and put their hand in an astronaut glove. They will experience how astronauts eat, sleep and even go to the bathroom. They can also explore the sights, sounds and smells on board a full-size orbiting mock-up of the International Space Station’s U.S. Destiny lab module.
“Space” includes interactive elements and games to help guests learn through play, as well as NASA video footage showcasing the challenges and accomplishments of scientists, astronauts and engineers involved in all stages of the process. Throughout the exhibition, misconceptions about space and space exploration, many of which are reinforced by popular media, are debunked.
At the end of the exhibition, guests are confronted with numerous decisions involved in pioneering new worlds. Should humans pursue a future in space? What will the future of space exploration look like? Would you want to be on the first crewed spaceship to land on Mars?
“Leaving guests with discussion topics offers them the chance keep conversations about space going long after they leave the Science Museum,” Bartel added. “Our journey to space is an ongoing one and there’s so much yet to be discovered. That gives everyone the freedom to dream big when it comes to pondering what the future might hold in our lifetime and for centuries to come.”
“Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience” is on display through Monday, September 4. It was designed and developed by the Science Museum of Minnesota in partnership with the International Space Station Office of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the California Science Center and partner museums. The touring exhibition is presented locally by Markel.
“Space” is available through a combination ticket that includes access to the Science Museum’s regular exhibitions, labs and demos. Admission is $22 for adults; $19 for youth (ages 6-12) and seniors (ages 60 and older); and $15 for preschool-aged children (ages 3-5). Discounts are available for teachers, military personnel and through the Museums for All program. Science Museum members receive unlimited free admission to the Science Museum and the touring exhibition. Guests may purchase tickets on the Science Museum’s website or in person at Guest Services when they arrive.
In addition to hosting the touring exhibition, the Science Museum is offering a variety of complementary programming throughout the building all summer. Details are available on the Science Museum’s website. It has also added two new astronomy shows to help guests explore the vastness of space on the largest screen in Virginia. “We Are Guardians” showcases the role satellite monitoring plays in understanding how ecosystems are intrinsically connected. “Astronaut: Ocean to Orbit” reveals the high-tech ways NASA uses subaquatic environments to mimic life and work in space. Both experiences in The Dome include seeing the film on the giant screen followed by a live journey through the cosmos with a Science Museum astronomer.
“We Are Guardians” and “Astronaut: Ocean to Orbit” will both be on The Dome schedule when the “Space” touring exhibition opens May 27. The Dome schedule changes monthly. Guests may visit the Science Museum’s website to check film times. Guests may add a Dome feature to their visit for $5. Guests who qualify for the Museums for All program can add a Dome feature for $1 per person.
Will you help support independent, local journalism?
We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.