Da Vinci Science Center brings space a little closer to home

By Danielle Nelson

*This article is posted on The Express Times website.

spaceThe Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown is featuring “Space: A Journey to Our Future,” an exhibit that includes rocks from the moon and Mars and footage from the Apollo landings. Photo Credit Troy Strozeski


When Angela Cole decided to leave Cincinnati and go on a vacation in Pennsylvania, it wasn’t just to visit her family.

The seventh grade science teacher also wanted to visit the Da Vinci Science Center to see the exhibit, Space: A Journey to Our Future.

Space: A Journey to Our Future, is about halfway through its summer-long run at the Allentown museum. It’s an interactive exploration of outer space right here on Earth for people of all ages. The exhibition was created, in part, by NASA, which takes visitors through the past, present and future of space exploration.

The traveling exhibit, created in 2009 for NASA’s 50th anniversary has drawn 4 million national visitors, but Allentown marked its first landing north of Washington, D.C.

Although it has been 45 years since man first walked on the moon, the Da Vinci Science Center has artifacts from the moon on display like the camera from Apollo 17, an ion engine used to power a space vehicle, unused tiles from the space shuttle Discovery and a spare tire from a lunar rover that was made with the help of Lockheed Martin.

Some of the unique treasures on showcase at the exhibition include a moon rock that Apollo 17 astronauts brought home in 1971 and one of 34 moon meteorites.

Todd C. Cox, director of guest experience at the Da Vinci Center, says visitors can touch the moon meteorite but not the moon rock.

“The moon rock is a national treasure and that’s how it is treated; we are not allowed to touch it,” Cox says. “It was picked up from an astronaut off the moon and was brought back to earth by a lunar capsule. The moon meteorite can be touched because it fell from space and landed here.”

In honor of the recent Mars exploration push, the exhibition highlights artifacts from the red planet. Visitors can view a nanorover, which is a miniature robotic vehicle used to collect information from Mars.

People can see how much they would weigh on Mars through a scale that accounts for less friction and gravity on the red planet. Visitors can also view themselves with infrared technology.

While it takes about nine months to get to Mars, visitors were able to make their own base camp much quicker on the computer by playing different video games.

Kids can also exercise in space by spinning in a centrifuge, which is like a bicycle.

“I kinda got a little dizzy but it was fun,” says Ava Best, 8, after a ride. Best says it felt like she was on a merry-go-round.

Cole adds that she wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the exhibit; her son did too.

“I like how there is a lot of activities for the kids to do, a lot of hands on stuff,” Cole says.

In exploration of the future, the exhibition also highlighted a lunar base camp for astronauts with beds, bathroom, greenhouse and a research area.

The Dexter F. and Dorothy H. Baker Foundation and Air Products are sponsors of the exhibit. Air Products supplied NASA with oxygen and hydrogen in the 1950’s.

Former Air Products President Ed Donley has said that exhibits like Space help to get kids excited about science and technology.

Dennis Zehner, the science center’s manager of marketing and communications, says it all comes back to making things interesting and relevant to kids.

“Everything we do at DSC is (about) getting people excited about the world of science; it’s part of the whole package,” Zehner says. “It all begins with a spark of interest.”

In fact, the Mentor Allentown Coalition, a collaboration of 30 companies, spearheaded by Da Vinci Science Center, was named in May as one of three US2020 City Competition national winners who will share a $1 million prize. That funding will help to align mentors and encourage young people to pursue STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math).

Zehner says they’re in development at the moment and the coalition’s mentor training will begin later this month, so that the program can work in the school year.

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The Space exhibit runs through Sept. 7.

Da Vinci Science Center, 3145 Hamilton Blvd. Bypass in Allentown

484-664-1002; davincisciencecenter.org/

Prices: $19.95, adult; $16.95 for kids ages 4-12, military members and seniors 62 and up; free for toddlers under 3 and for DSC members.

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