Carnegie Science Center's SpacePlace launches

| Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 8:56 p.m.

Of all areas of science, perhaps space fascinates people the most, say officials from the Carnegie Science Center, which opened the new permanent SpacePlace exhibit Friday.

There's something so intriguing not just about the seemingly limitless sky out there, but about the astronauts who brave the journey to go out there and explore and live in a space station for awhile, says Dennis Bateman, director of exhibits experience and program development at the North Side center.

At SpacePlace, visitors can explore a two-story replica of the international space station, and get a personal feel for what astronauts experience. The walk-in replica module includes the Personal Habitat Quarters, with a walled-in astronaut bed that keeps the astronaut from floating throughout the cabin; the Russian-built Waste and Hygiene Compartment, with a space toilet that people often ask about; and a Microgravity Science Glovebox, where astronauts can conduct experiments in zero-gravity environments. In the Window Observational Research Facility, visitors can see a collection of space footage and photos.

SpacePlace will serve center visitors well, since the starry shows in the Buhl Planetarium spark their interest in the heavens and astronomy.

“A lot of our space (programming) ... has been in the planetarium,” Bateman says. “When the show's over, they say, ‘What can we do next?' ”

SpacePlace might spark entertainment memories for visitors who are fans of space-theme classics like “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” he says.

“It's not just the science,” Bateman says. “There's a lot of pop culture in it.”

Other features in SpacePlace, which starts on the first floor and stretches up to the second, include the Zero-G Climbers, where visitors can strap on a harness and get a feel for weightlessness as they ascend the module to complete a simple task in zero-gravity.

At the Micro-G Simulator, visitors will lie down in a low-friction platform that rolls within a confined area, and try to perform more tasks.

You can still design your own rocket and launch it at the Rocket Launch and Parachute Drop, and check out the Buhl Planetarium's giant Zeiss Model II Star Projector, which was used from 1939 to 1991.

High above the atrium floor, a 13-scale model of the Hubble Telescope will hang. Spacesuits, artifacts, images and more are on display at the Living & Working in Space Wall.

John Radzilowicz, the center's director of science and education, says that the center has wanted to do a space exhibit for a long time.

“This is a topic obviously that's been very near and dear to our hearts for a long time, with the Buhl Planetarium,” he says. “It's very much a natural for us.”

Staff members regularly get questions about the recent ending of NASA's shuttle program, and people assume that the space program has ended.

But that is not true: American astronauts are working with Russian ones, and researchers are looking into privatizing and upgrading future space-exploration missions.

“We wanted ... to refocus people's attention to the fact that living and working in space is still happening, and there's more coming,” Radzilowicz says.

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7824.

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