For release: 05/07/03
Release #: 03-073
Visitors can blast off on the summer vacation of a lifetime with International Space Station: The Earth Tour: a 5,000-square-foot, interactive exhibit appearing at McWane Center in Birmingham, Ala., from May 24 to Sept. 1. The Marshall Center is collaborating with McWane — a science center specializing in hands-on exhibits — to highlight Alabama's contributions to the Space Station program.Photo: Museum visitor practices working upside down on Space Station (McWane Center photo)
Visitors can blast off on the summer vacation of a lifetime with International Space Station: The Earth Tour, a 5,000-square-foot, interactive exhibit appearing at McWane Center in Birmingham, Ala., from May 24 to Sept. 1.
McWane — a science center specializing in hands-on exhibits — is collaborating with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., on the Space Station exhibition. Visitors can step aboard high-fidelity replicas of Space Station modules and laboratories, experiencing life in orbit from lift-off to landing.
The real International Space Station orbits more than 250 miles above Earth and is the third brightest object in the night sky. It is evolving from a construction project to a world-class laboratory — the only lab without an Earth address. The Destiny laboratory, where most science experiments are conducted, was built at the Marshall Center. Alabamians work seven days a week, 24 hours a day in the Payload Operations Center — NASA's Space Station science command post located at the Marshall Center.
To highlight Alabama's contributions to the Space Station program, the Marshall Center is sending exhibits about Station hardware, and NASA has scheduled experts to talk at the museum during selected weekends this summer.
On July 19, Todd May, an engineer who led the team that built a "doorway to the stars" — the new Quest airlock, will speak. The airlock helps crews exit the Space Station for Extravehicular Activities, also known as EVAs and space walks. May is a native of Fairhope, Ala., and a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama.
On Aug. 30, visitors can hear about Space Station science from Dr. Bill Carswell — a senior research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Carswell has been involved with space experiments for 15 years and currently is working on a furnace that will process metals and alloys on the Space Station.
A Marshall Center exhibit will allow visitors to get their hands on science - the same way the Space Station crew conducts science inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Working inside the sealed glovebox by using gloves attached to the front, the crew can handle fluids, flames and other substances safely. The glovebox exhibit includes a mockup of mission control, so museum visitors can simulate the communications from the ground control to astronauts doing science on the Space Station.
Visitors will view Life Support System Racks and learn the way wastewater may someday be recycled for reuse by the Station crew. Five racks connected together include two water-recycling racks, one air recycling rack and the Station bathroom and shower.
A third display will feature NASA's Technology Transfer Program by showing numerous examples of commercial products used by American's everyday. These products — smoke detectors, a bicycle racing helmet, cordless tools and golf clubs — were created or enhanced using technology from the space program.
As part of their Space Station tour, McWane guests will use simulators to train for their space mission and experience Shuttle lift off to the Station in a special theater. Once in orbit, guests step inside a mockup that resembles the real Space Station, which has been under assembly by the United States and 15 other nations since 1998. This international home in space has grown from the size of an apartment to a more spacious facility roomier than a three-bedroom house. Eventually, it will be as big as a five-bedroom house with almost an acre of solar panels.
Aboard the Station, McWane Center visitors learn how astronauts eat, sleep, shower, go to the bathroom and keep fit in space. Then they enter the Station's Destiny laboratory and go to work. Floor-to-ceiling racks containing equipment, experiments, stowage, crew systems and maintenance systems expose visitors to day-to-day science activities. After a full day of space-work, guests experience a virtual return to Earth in the Crew Return Vehicle Theater.
Built by U.S. Space Enterprises in Charlotte, N.C., International Space Station: The Earth Tour will travel to venues across the United States over the next six years and is expected to attract as many as five million visitors. The national exhibit sponsor is Goodrich, which developed space suits for NASA's Mercury astronauts and produces the wheels and brakes for the Space Shuttle. For more information on admission to the McWane Center, the exhibit and the Space Station, please visit the following Web sites:
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