“SpacePlace” debuts at Carnegie Science Center

Published Jan 9, 2013 at 11:08 am (Updated Jan 9, 2013 at 11:08 am)

Ever wonder what life is like for astronauts living in space? “SpacePlace,” a new exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center, focuses on just that, detailing not only their equipment and how it works, but also the training required to become an astronaut.

Astronauts have been in the International Space Station every day since 2000. The exhibit features a two-story walk-in replica of a space pod showing the astronauts’ living conditions, including where they sleep. However, if a space pod is extremely small, astronauts must sometimes sleep standing up. Since there is no sense of up or down in space, the pod is cluttered on all sides with equipment that the astronauts will need.

The exhibit also features a timeline detailing just how much the space program has achieved and what it hopes to accomplish in the future, including a return trip to the moon, mining asteroids, a manned mission to Mars, missions to the moons of planets like Saturn and Jupiter, and maybe even to other solar systems.

There is a lot of information about astronaut Mike Fincke, and for good reason – he’s a fan of the Science Center. There are videos showing him answering questions that many people may have about going into space and videos of him just fooling around with zero gravity – wearing, of course, a Science Center T-shirt.

One of the displays notes that, surprisingly, many products that people use every day originated in space, including modern automobile tires, sunglasses and even school buses. Also featured in the display is astronaut ice cream, which was actually so unpopular with the astronauts that it was used on one mission and never again. But the exhibit is quick to note astronaut ice cream can still be purchased in the Science Center gift shop.

Want to know how it feels to be weightless? The biggest part of the exhibit is the zero gravity simulator. In the simulator, visitors are strapped into a harness that balances their weight so they don’t feel any of the effects of gravity. They can scale a 21-foot wall that replicates the outside of the ISS and make repairs. It’s probably the closest most people will get to being in space. Visitors can also design and launch their own rockets, discover potential career opportunities and more.

Recently opened, “SpacePlace” is a permanent exhibit located on the first floor of the Carnegie Science Center. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays. To learn more, visit www.carnegiesciencecenter.org.

Jeremy Farbman is in eighth grade at Jefferson Middle School in Mt. Lebanon.

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