The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is always a fun spot for an outing. But on top of all of the usual interesting stuff like the trains, farm exhibit and Idea Factory, the MSI is also featuring a temporary exhibit called Life in Space? through September 30, 2012. This exhibit features a full-scale, NASA_owned model of the Curiosity Rover.
Named "Dusty," the model is a life-sized, six-wheeled robotic explorer modeled after the real Curiosity Rover, a 7 foot-tall robot scientist on wheels scheduled to land on Mars on this Monday at 12:31 a.m. CDT. The MSI is one of only two institutions in the world selected by NASA to host a full-scale model of the rover during the landing. The Curiosity has a daunting task: many previous attempts at landing similar rovers on The Red Planet have been unsuccessful. If the Curiosity makes a successful landing, it has an even more daunting task ahead: this robotic scout is on a mission to discover whether Mars ever harbored life. Although this exhibit is small, we learned quite a few interesting facts about the Curiosity and larger questions about life on Mars. We especially liked the short-and-to-the-point videos that provided a succinct explanation of what the Curiosity mission is all about. I was also impressed with the MSI staff on hand to help visitors understand what the exhibit is all about (again, this exhibit is small and you could easily miss the larger significance of it and the tie-in the landing scheduled for Monday is you weren't specifically looking for it.)
The exhibit features highlights about the rover's capabilities (including a rock-vaporizing laser) and how the team at NASA chose the best location to land the Rover (in the Gale Crater in case you are wondering).
Only about one in three landing craft make it safely to the surface of Mars. This is exciting stuff - and a great chance to make a local connection for your kids to this international news event. Good luck to everyone working to make the Curiosity's landing a success.
Just across the hallway, guests can also marvel at the Lunar Greenhouse, a device that could one day help make a colony on the Moon possible. The University of Arizona's Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC) and others have created a prototype of a self-contained, automated environment which has the potential to provide water, oxygen and one-half of the daily amount of food for one astronaut to survive. The exhibit explains how this futuristic contraption might be deployed to the Moon in advance of astronauts. Lunar robots (how cool!) would bury the greenhouse under the surface and engineers could remotely turn on the lights and water to grow the seeds already in place. Super interesting stuff. This exhibit will be on display through January 27, 2013.
Definitely plan to include both of these exhibits in your next visit to the MSI.