Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Space and Rocket Center

As you might know, Britt choose the stars for our next unit study after our long Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year's break.  We went through all the planets (there are 12 now, and maybe another 2, so I learned tons as well).  We studied the ice dwarfs in the Kuiper Belt, the comets in the Oort Cloud.  We talked about black holes (Britt's favorite part), and different kinds of space probes and telescopes.  We spent alot of very cold nights with snow on the ground, looking at the winter sky (which in my opinion has the best, most easily discernible constellations).  We spent alot of time looking at Stellarium on the computer, and NASA's website for kids.  We spent alot of time doing experiments and making things to help us study the stars.  Britt built a constellation box, for learning constellations, a night vision flashlight for consulting our maps during stargazing, and a mini telescope, that doesn't remotely work, but has made for a great spy glass when he is playing pirates.  Ruth helped him to paint his planet model and we hung them all from his ceiling.  They also picked out their favorite constellations, and I hung the stars they got for Christmas on their ceilings.  Needless to say we have had a lot of fun.  We studied dinosaurs because he wanted to, but I was heavily influencing his desire to study the stars.  We were excitedly looking forward to the end of our space unit, because it meant a trip to Alabama to look through Grumps's telescope AND a trip to the Space in Rocket Center.

Now, I have to explain that I loved the Space and Rocket Center growing up.  My first trip was our third grade field trip from there.  I've been when we carried cousins who were interested in aerospace engineering in college.  We've carried other family members when they've been in the area, just because it's really cool.  Britt has even been before though he doesn't remember it, and I was pregnant with Ruth at the time.  They are constantly expanding their exhibits, and everything is in a pretty central location, it's really great.  There are also several interactive things, where you can walk into the quarantine trailer that they had to hang out in after the first Apollo missions, or fly the shuttle lander simulator, or lay down in the cockpit, and pretend you are Ken Mattingly trying to determine the right startup sequence when everything went wrong for Apollo 13.  Let's just say it's a really cool place, and I was really looking forward to sharing that with the kids.

I talked it up alot, and the kids also know that "Grumps writes stuff that goes to space."  So, by the time the day rolled around to go, Ruth was convinced "Grumps is taking us to work with him in space."  The poor kid was terribly disappointed that she didn't actually get in a rocket, and she still thinks his daily commute to work each day involves a rocket launch.  Aside from that small disappointment (which she and Britt are still attempting to rectify by building a rocket in the backyard out of sticks and their swing set), they absolutely loved it.  We got to see several different suits used in space in different time periods.  They got to stand under the giant Saturn V rockets, and once Britt went running thinking one was about to take off, but I'll save that story for Grumps to share on Facebook, when he has time.  At the end of the day, I told them that they could use their birthday money, and other money in their savings accounts to pick out one souvenir.  Britt decided on a space suit, he insists he still needs to buy a helmet, but he's wearing that thing all over the house, and insisting that we refer to him as Commander Britt. Ruth chose Astronaut Hello Kitty, both of them spent just about everything they've saved up, but they have really enjoyed them.

A different night before we left Alabama, Grumps got out his telescope and the kids were able to see a sliver of the moon, the Orion Nebula, Jupiter and the Galilean moons, and the Pleiades.  Britt was really excited, and asked Grumps if we would see the Great Red Spot in his telescope, and Grumps had to laugh and tell him that his telescope wasn't that powerful.  Britt is anxious to see some of the summer constellations like Hercules (he's seen the Disney movie a few too many times, I think he'll be disappointed), and the Milky Way, so Grumps has promised to bring up his telescope when they visit this summer.

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