Monday, June 09, 2008

A Big Ol' NASA Commercial

We went to a NASA exhibit at a local children's museum. What with all of the astronomy coursework, the Phoenix Mars lander, and one mondo-size telescope--well, we just had to go. Here is how it was billed:

NASA's Exploration Experience is an interactive traveling exhibit that inspires visitors as they embark on a simulated journey into space. The exhibit simulates a visit to the moon, the earliest destination in America's next great era of exploration. Interactive control panels and activity stations, immersive 3-D imagery, and audio effects will plunge visitors into a not-too-distant future on the moon's surface. The exhibit will demonstrate what it will be like to live and work on other worlds and explore the benefits these expeditions might reap here on Earth.

We went. It was pretty boring, really. The museum had a few space-related things:

Space suit and under suit (much flatter clothes to the left).

Space food. All freeze dried.

Space potties (well, when ya gotta go...). If you were on the ISS right now you wouldn't think this picture was disgusting at all--you'd be loving it. (First two links from GeekPress.)

Space urinals (the big gold thing is the original one for men, there's a small, upside-down, clear-plastic thing next to the breifcase which is the equivilant for women).

Here's the actual NASA truck.

Before the kids went inside, they got to have their picture taken as if they were on the moon (the white suits) or Mars (the orange suit).

The truck itself was divided into two sections. The first section was an interactive area for the kids. There was a 7' projection screen showing all of the benefits to everyone when NASA spends lots of money to go to the moon and then other people realize that some cool stuff was developed (hey--did you know that without NASA we wouldn't have advanced communications? Is it my imagination, or did they develop radios after we went to the moon the first time?) and they then sell it to the rest of us. There was also a 2' by 4' touch screen LCD computer game where the kids could place moon base components (don't even get me start on how incredibly awful the woman who was supposed to be helping was--she shouldn't be dealing with kids at all). There was a bit of moon rock that the kids could touch. Impressive to me was a vertical projection screen (projected from behind). In front of the screen were two vertical posts about 2 feet apart. When you moved your hand in the plane of the two posts (not touching anything, just in the air), a cursor on the projection screen moved and you could get some information about the moon.

After some time in the front room (about 15 minutes), you moved into the back room. The back of the trailer had six movie screens set up in a hexagon (actually the very back was screenless) with projectors above each screen. In this room was where the kids were supposed to 'visit' the moonbase that we will have in the future.

I recorded part of the 'moon visit.' What a commercial! NASA really produced quite an expensive commercial to try to indoctrinate kids on their supposed usefulness. You might enjoy it. When the kids are crawling all over the floor, there were interactive rock projections on the floor that would 'run away from them' when they tried to touch them.

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