Space is cool. Even if you don’t know much about astronomy or astrophysics, you will enjoy the American Museum of Natural History’s new exhibit, Beyond Planet Earth.
The key to getting the most out of this exhibit is to first go and see the film, Journey to the Stars, at the Hayden Planetarium. It is a movie, an amusement park ride and a science class all wrapped into one thirty minute experience.
The film spans billions of years, beginning on Earth and extending beyond our galaxy and into the future before returning you safely home. During this journey, you get lost in the past and get excited about potential discoveries in the future. Luckily, the sun’s demise is millions of years away and we should have set up shop on some distant planet by then (or as the film sensitively puts it, “have moved on”).
By the end, you feel as if you have actually ridden through space and when you step out and into the Beyond Planet Earth exhibit, you can better relate to the experiences of the astronauts and the history of space travel.
With NASA funding on the decline, it is important that we keep our children interested in space exploration. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, put it well when he said that NASA and the space program galvanized (North) American society and inspired generations of children to become scientists and engineers. These children went on to make discoveries and create technologies, which in turn was the foundation for a thriving economy.
As a companion to the exhibit, the museum has created an augmented reality (AR) app (without space exploration there would be no cell phones). This app is great for younger children who have a hard time patiently reading each exhibit detail. With this app, you look for the 11 AR icons, including a Moon base and NASA’s curiosity rover, which are scattered throughout the exhibit. Using the camera on your iphone (sorry it is an iphone/pad app only) your kids can activate the icon and unlock 3D-like animations and collect them so they can refer to them at home and thus reinforce what they have learned.
TIP: download the app before you go into the exhibit. If you forget, no problem, the museum has free WiFi so you can download it there.
Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Angela is the History Buff Traveling Mom. In addition to her love of travel and books, she explores the history of NYC houses and their restoration in her blog, BrownstoneCyclone.com.