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Permanent Exhibits

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Permanent Exhibits

Make the Universe Your Playground!

After more than three years of planning, the Virginia Air & Space Center has opened the first phase of its new hands-on space gallery, Space Quest: Exploring the Moon, Mars & Beyond - presented by Langley Federal Credit Union.

Our Solar System

For thousands of years the planets have been a source of intrigue and mystery for mankind. Even today man’s need to explore is inspired by these heavenly bodies.

Planetary Models –Guests to the new Space Quest gallery need only to look up for a little planetary inspiration of their own. High above the second-floor, nearly 30 feet high, hang giant planetary models of Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. In fact the models are the largest in the country to be displayed inside a museum or science center. Jupiter, the largest of the models, weighs more than 750 pounds, has a diameter of 10 feet, and hangs approximately 22 feet in the air. Saturn is eight-and-a-half feet in diameter and weighs 450 pounds, with an additional 495 pounds of rings encircling the planet’s body. Hanging more than 30 feet high, Saturn floats above Uranus and Neptune which each weigh around 65 pounds. The models are composed of heavy-duty Styrofoam which is painted to resemble each of the planets. The Solar System is completed with smaller models of Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury mounted at the visitor’s level. Created to be a scale model solar system, Earth is about the size of a soccer ball and Mercury measures up to a mere baseball.

Planet Surface Samples - The planets in our solar system are composed of different materials and some of them may surprise you. Guests can examine various sample elements representing the surface of each world in the solar system. Some planets that appear to be solid balls from our vantage point on Earth are actually mostly gas. Just like the Earth seems solid and rocky, even though in reality it is mostly covered with water.

Inter-planetary Travel Agency – Travel has never been this high-tech! Step onto the planetary scales and the electronic Travel Brochure Rack comes to life. Visitors choose a brochure, from any of the planets in our solar system, to explore for their inter-stellar vacation. By selecting a brochure a variety of information about the planet is displayed. Anything from how much travel time is required to what you might need for the planet’s atmosphere to how much you weigh on that planet.

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Mars and the Moon

Your interactive, inter-stellar journey begins here with the Mars Transporter, a simulated space travel experience that will take you to the Mars surface. Don’t worry, the six-month journey will feel more like a few minutes, and once on the planet’s surface you’ll know it was well worth the wait. Let go of your inhibitions and climb on board. Outer space awaits you.

Mars Transporter – NASA’s vision for Mars exploration comes to life with this simulated transporter experience that’s literally out-of-this-world. Modeled after NASA’s own vision for deep space exploration, this Mars Transit Vehicle launches from Hampton with its guest crew to embark on a six-month journey to the Red Planet. The simulated journey features dramatic lighting and sound effects along with floor vibrations and the faint hum of engines that make the experience a realistic one. After a treacherous jaunt through solar radiation and past asteroids, the MTV parks in Mars orbit and the landing vehicle carries the crew habitation pod to the surface. As the pod doors open, the Mars surface greets the crew. This space adventure has just begun.

Mars Surface – Beyond the Mars Transporter, the simulated Red Planet’s surface awaits. From realistic rocks, textures on the floor, dramatic lighting, and breathtaking murals, it’s easy to believe you have traveled to Mars. Gazing out into the gallery the planet surface reveals footprints and tire tracks in its reddish dust. These tracks lead guests to discover their first Mars encounter, and no, it’s not a Martian.

Viking Orbiter — Managed by NASA Langley Research Center, the Viking Project’s objective was to investigate Mars. The Orbiter was designed to orbit the planet and map the entire Martian surface. In conjunction with the Viking Lander, it relayed information to Earth. The orbiter is suspended overhead as guests enter the mars landscape.

Viking to Mars Exploration Rovers – The Martian surface has been explored in five locations by increasingly versatile machines. Full-scale models of the Viking Lander, the first explorer, and the Mars Exploration Rover, the most recent to land on the surface, offer a detailed look at the past, present and future of Mars exploration. Behind the models are three panoramas displayed on wide projection screens. Visitors can navigate through these panoramas and choose hotspots that zoom in on significant features and discoveries.

Rover Races – Today’s Mars exploration take place here on Earth. With robotic spacecraft, controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab are the real space explorers. Visitors can try their hand at being a Mars explorer when they take the controls of two Rovers and simulate a mission. Using a computer workstation to send a series of commands to a rover robot, guests attempt to complete mission tasks. Through images sent back from the rover visitors can determine their position within the landscape and plan their next moves. Limited battery life, sand storms, and physical landscape features provide challenge for even the most practiced Rover controller.

Mars Rock – Guests can have a close encounter with this little piece of . . . Mars. Discovered in a farmer’s field, it is suspected that the rock is part of a Mars meteorite that hurled itself at Earth. Visitors can compare and contrast this sample to a similar rock from the moon.

Moon Rock – This three-billion-year-old moon rock is one small piece of the Goodwill rock acquired on the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. The sample helped scientists learn more about the moon’s geological make-up. A monitor next to the moon rock case shows the video of the Goodwill Rock being collected on the moon.

Crater Maker - Craters are a universal phenomenon caused by simple processes. In this exhibit, graphics explain the physics of “cratering,” how scientists use rocks from different locations of a crater to learn about the underlying geology, and how crater mapping can be used to date the surfaces of planets. Crater Maker allows visitors to create their own crater when an air gun fires empty paint ball pellets into a tray of powder, creating realistic craters in the surface. A high-speed camera captures each impact for playback. Guests can observe the creation and patterning of craters in real-time or re-play the crater creation in slow motion.

Lunar Excursion Module Simulator (LEMS) - Built in 1965 at the Langley Research Center as part of the Lunar Landing Research Facility (LLRF), the LEMS was used to familiarize the Apollo astronauts with handling characteristics of a lunar-landing vehicle. Displayed now in the Space Quest gallery, this LEMS is the original trainer used at NASA Langley Research Center in the 1960s by Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and 22 other astronauts who were preparing for their trip to the moon. The simulator, which weighs in at a hefty 8,900 pounds, allowed astronauts to experience piloting problems they would encounter in the last 150 feet of descent to the surface of the moon.

Lunar Landing Simulator – Landing on the Moon is no simple task. Especially in the 1960s when man had just begun to explore outer space. The Lunar Landing Simulator allows visitors to experience the thrill and confusion of landing on another world where there are no familiar cues to relative sizes and distances. Guests can step aboard a recreation of the Apollo Lunar Lander and, using a joystick and throttle, can control the descent of the lander to the lunar surface.

Training for the Moon - During an Apollo mission, astronauts had one chance to land on the Moon and they had to undergo extensive training to be ready for it. Visitors can choose from several video presentations that illustrate the LEMS in action during several training exercises performed right here at Langley Research Center.

Lunar Orbiter – The Orbiter on display is one of eight spacecraft built by the Boeing Company. It was designed to photograph the lunar surface to help scientists select suitable landing sites for Apollo missions. Orbiters completed 6,000 orbits of the moon and photographed more than 99 percent of the lunar surface. The Lunar Orbiter is considered to be one of the most successful space projects in the history of NASA Langley Research Center.

Lunar Landing Sites – A critical part of the Apollo Mission was to identify suitable landing sites. Using flip panel graphics, visitors attempt to identify a suitable landing site on the moon.

Magic Planet Global Projection –– Imagine a giant sphere that allows you to interact explore the Earth and other planets with the touch of a button. At a whopping five feet in diameter, the Magic Planet Global Projector displays stunning, inter-changing images of the Earth, moon, sun and Mars in a hemisphere, allowing guests to interact with each planet. Real-time data on Earth provides up-to-date information on weather patterns, natural disasters, and more, allowing visitors to view Earth in the here and now.

NASA Links – As the visitor center for NASA Langley Research Center the Virginia Air & Space Center stays on top of the latest and greatest in space exploration. With NASA Links guests have access to video of current events and other items related to NASA’s Mission for Space Exploration. New media pieces are downloaded directly from a NASA satellite on a regular basis, so there is always something new to explore.

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Living and Working in Space

Space Stations – Humans have been working and living in space since the 1970s. Space stations have played an important role in space exploration by providing long-term labs for research. This exhibit highlights some of the science pursued in space-based laboratories, including Earth observation, materials science, human adaptation to microgravity, and space biology. Visitors can compare and contrast scale models of Sky Lab, Mir and the International Space Station as they review graphic panels that illustrate the past, present and future of these space labs.

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Visions of Space Exploration

Time Machine – Visitors are invited to explore time and space when they enter the Time Machine for a quick jaunt through the centuries. Overhead a vortex of time spins chaotically as guests select random videos that highlight milestones in man’s never-ending journey to explore. A total of 20 time machine pit-stops provide a humorous, tongue-in-cheek glance at time, from Stonehenge in 3000 BC to the future of Deep Space exploration in 5026.

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