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"Spaceplace" Will Offer Look Into Life Of An Astronaut

The International Space Station is coming to the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh in the form of a new permanent exhibit.  The new “Spaceplace” will feature hands-on simulated experiments and a real-life replica of the International Space Station (ISS).

Dennis Bateman, Director of Exhibits and Programs at the Carnegie Science Center, said there has always been a strong space presence in Pittsburgh.  “When the Science Center opened in ’91, a lot of focus on space was mostly on the observatory and the planetarium, doing things through computer shows or one-on-one interaction, but we really didn’t have any space-related exhibitory to compliment that,” Bateman said.

The two-story, walk-in replica of the space station will include interactive exhibits such as a remote manipulator simulation (RMS), a microgravity science glove box (MSG), a window observational research facility (WORF), and a live feed from the real ISS.

In the RMS exhibit, visitors will use a real robotic arm and camera to inspect and report the status of targets outside the space station.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to see what living in space is like in the personal habitat quarters and the waste and hygiene compartment.  Featured in those exhibits is a temporary sleep station (TeSS), which is a restrained sleeping back that prevents astronauts from floating freely as they sleep.

Bateman said one of the highlights of the exhibit is the zero-gravity simulator where visitors will experience the feeling of weightlessness in space.

“What you discover is, A) it’s fun, but B) it’s very difficult to work in space. If you push off a little too hard, you’ll shoot past the area you’re supposed to be working on and you have to grab yourself and work back down and maneuver yourself around, so it can take an astronaut 45 minutes to change a bolt on the outside of the Space Station,” Bateman said.

There will also be a micro-G simulator that will show the effects of gravity and friction on our environment.  If you give it a try, you will have to lie down on a rolling, low-friction platform and complete tasks used in astronaut training.

Bateman said a special guest will attend the opening Friday, November 16.  “We’re going to have Mike Fink, a NASA astronaut who grew up in Sewickley and actually got his love for space fanned as a boy coming to the Buhl Planetarium and going to the camps and classes and seeing the Planetarium shows,” Bateman said.

Additional features include a rocket design and launch station, the original Zeiss Model II Star Projector, and a one-third-scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope.