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Space Science Center Celebrates That ‘Sense of Wonder’ on Saturday

June 19, 2008

By Sonya Sorich, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Ga.

Jun. 19–From constellations to visions of far-away galaxies, the night sky has some serious power.

Just ask Shawn Cruzen, executive director of Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

“It gives people a sense of wonder beyond what they see with their eyes every day on the Earth,” he said. “It just turns on their imagination.”

Fueling that imagination and fostering a lifelong interest in space science are goals that remain paramount as the center celebrates its 12th anniversary Saturday.

Held in conjunction with the 50th anniversaries of Columbus State University and NASA, the all-day event includes an appearance by astronaut Story Musgrave — plus films, demonstrations and giveaways. And it’s all free.

“It’s kind of our payback to the community,” said Larry Pallotta, the center’s assistant director.

Astronaut superhero

The event’s keynote speaker, Story Musgrave, holds a resume of galactic proportions.

“This guy’s kind of a superhero, even among NASA astronauts,” Cruzen said.

With a 30-year NASA career under his belt, Musgrave is the only astronaut to have flown on all five space shuttles — the Challenger, Columbia, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour.

“Up until John Glenn, he was the oldest astronaut to have flown in space,” Pallotta said. Musgrave traveled to space at 62, Glenn earned the title at 77.

Not just an astronaut, Musgrave holds six academic degrees in fields spanning everything from chemistry to literature. He’s been a trauma surgeon, a mathematician and operations analyst and more.

Musgrave’s presentation, “The Art of the Cosmos,” will touch on elements like space science, NASA and higher education.

Permanent fascination

Even during the center’s early stages, attracting public interest in space science wasn’t too difficult, Pallotta said.

About three years ago, a change in the center’s philosophy — and an increase in financial resources — led to the inclusion of a variety of interactive exhibits.

The center sustained popularity even after it started charging admission, Cruzen and Pallotta said. It draws on middle-school science standards, as every sixth-grader in Muscogee County visits the center at some point.

“It’s like a different world for them. They still have a sense of wonderment. Ninety-nine percent of them really get into it,” Pallotta said.

And center organizers keep their eyes on the future, namely with the addition of a “Magic Planet” exhibit that will feature a 24-inch spherical globe projector screen allowing guests to see any planet in the solar system.

The exhibit, funded by a grant from MeadWestvaco, is expected to arrive around Labor Day.

In the meantime, the center stays busy over the summer, thanks to a “stay-cation” promotion that gives discounted admission to guests who present a recent gas receipt of $30 or more.

IF YOU GO

What: The Coca-Cola Space Science Center’s 12th anniversary, also celebrating the 50th anniversaries of Columbus State University and NASA

When: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday

Where: 701 Front Ave.

Cost: Free, but you should get a ticket to see Story Musgrave. The 6 p.m. talk is full. Reserve your seat by visiting the center.

Details: 706-649-1470

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

10:30 a.m. Coca-Cola Space Science Center opens

11 a.m. Omnisphere Theater Show, “Legends of the Night Sky: Orion”

11 a.m. Coloring book station

11:45 a.m. T-shirt giveaway

Noon Omnisphere Theater Show, “Moon Race”

12:30 p.m. Physics demonstrations

12:45 p.m. T-shirt giveaway

1 p.m. Air rockets, Flight Prep Room

1 p.m. Omnisphere Theater Show, “LASER Magic”

1:45 p.m. T-shirt giveaway

2 p.m. Coloring book station

2 p.m. Omnisphere Theater Show, “Seven Wonders”

2:15 p.m. Rocket launches, South Lawn

2:30 p.m. Physics demonstrations

2:45 p.m. T-shirt giveaway

3 p.m. Story Musgrave presentation, “The Art of the Cosmos”

3 p.m. Air rockets, Flight Prep Room

3:45 p.m. T-shirt giveaway

4 p.m. Omnisphere Theater Show, “Secrets of the Sun”

4:30 p.m. Story Musgrave meet and greet

5 p.m. Omnisphere Theater Show, “LASER Vinyl”

6 p.m. Story Musgrave presentation, “The Art of the Cosmos”

7 p.m. Cake cutting ceremony

9 p.m. Sci-fi movie night, “Destination Moon” and “Rocketship X-M”

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To see more of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.ledger-enquirer.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Ga.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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