The site is not supported in this browser
Please Upgrade to a newer browser
chrome firefox explorer safari opera
Getting to know the space exhibition

Getting to know the space exhibition

Beyond Planet Earth features a series of immersive environments that offer a glimpse at what the next 50 to 100 years of space exploration may bring.

 

 • Introduction: The exhibition opens with a retrospective of historic manned and unmanned space missions: Sputnik1, the first manmade satellite; the Vostok 1 space capsule that boosted Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, into orbit; the Hubble Space Telescope; and a Mars Exploration Rover. Authentic equipment and artifacts on display include a Soviet cosmonaut helmet and U.S. astronaut gloves. A model of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, a spaceplane currently in development, highlights emerging space travel vehicles.

 

* Returning to the Moon: NASA and other space agencies have identified Shackleton Crater, near the Moon’s South Pole, as a promising site for a lunar base because it offers access to resources such as water-ice and near-constant sunlight to generate electricity. Along with a scale model of a habitat that could house four astronauts, this section of the exhibition features models of a space elevator that could be used to transport mined materials and a liquid mirror telescope on the Moon’s surface.

 

• Exploring Asteroids: This section features a large 3-D re-creation of the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa and the Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft that rendezvoused with it in 2005 to collect samples. Obtaining pristine samples for study does not only help scientists better understand the formation of the solar system, it may reveal the presence of valuable metals. Iron meteorites like the Knowles meteorite from the Museum’s collection are 99 percent metal alloy and—like some asteroids—could be mined for valuable materials. Asteroids are also a constant threat to life on Earth: NASA has identified more than 1,200 asteroids larger than 500 feet whose orbit comes within 5 million miles of Earth’s. A touch-screen interactive exhibit explores plausible scenarios for deflecting a “doomsday” asteroid.

Voyaging to Mars: No other planet in our solar system is more likely to harbor life than Mars, the most tempting destination for exploration. Visitors will see a full-scale model of the 9-foot-long Mars Science Laboratory Rover, called Curiosity, which is scheduled to launch in late 2011 to search for evidence of life on Mars. Sending humans to the red planet could be the next step, and miniature models in this section show how astronauts might eat, sleep, and exercise during the months-long journey to Mars aboard Nautilus-X, a spaceship designed by NASA engineers. Not everyone is suited for the trip, and visitors can take a personality test to see how they would fare. In addition, a prototype of a sleek new space suit, designed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will be displayed to show what an astronaut might wear in the future. A walk-through diorama of the Martian surface and an interactive fly-over simulation, called the Mars Explorer console, gives visitors a sense of what it might be like to explore the Martian landscape. Powered by Uniview software and based on the Digital Universe, a 3D map of the known universe assembled from astronomical data sources that include NASA, the Mars Explorer console allows visitors to zoom in on locations such as the Gale Crater, the landing spot for the Curiosity Rover, and Olympus Mons, the largest volcano and largest mountain in the solar system. Another interactive display, the Mars terraforming table, will allow several visitors at once to engage in an interactive “game” to transform Mars from a frozen, thin-aired environment into an Earth-like planet, a process known as “terraforming.” The multi-touch table, produced with scientific guidance from NASA planetary scientist Chris McKay, is powered by a PlayStation 3 gaming system and 66,000 lines of code developed by an in-house team in collaboration with the open-source

community.

 

• Exploring Asteroids: This section features a large 3-D re-creation of the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa and the Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft that rendezvoused with it in 2005 to collect samples. Obtaining pristine samples for study does not only help scientists better understand the formation of the solar system, it may reveal the presence of valuable metals. Iron meteorites like the Knowles meteorite from the Museum’s collection are 99 percent metal alloy and—like some asteroids—could be mined for valuable materials. Asteroids are also a constant threat to life on Earth: NASA has identified more than 1,200 asteroids larger than 500 feet whose orbit comes within 5 million miles of Earth’s. A touch-screen interactive exhibit explores plausible scenarios for deflecting a “doomsday” asteroid.