Ever fantasize about traveling to Mars? You might be able to by the year 2040!
This is just one cool piece of information included in the “Journey to Space” 3-D film at The Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. The movie depicts NASA’s plans for Orion, an inflatable habitat propelled by rockets, to conduct future deep-space missions.
For cosmos exploration enthusiasts, the 10,000-square-foot “Journey to Space” exhibit is filled with interactive displays and videos shown on wall-sized screens. Pretend you’re an astronaut in one of two anti-gravity chambers simulating the International Space Station’s Destiny module, or try your hand at using video technology to pick up a ball with a robotic arm. These are particular favorites of kids and adults alike. One father-son pair shared their enthusiasm for all things astronaut by managing space station power – switching from solar power to battery and back again.
But don’t worry if your crew is not all about space – there are plenty of other cool things at the Perot Museum to hold the interest of both kids and adults. In the Texas Instruments Engineering and Innovation Hall, exhibits feature engaging interactive demonstrations. Operate the gear mechanism that propels a bicycle wheel while displaying a message in LED lights, or initiate various ball-runs that demonstrate cause and effect. The most popular techno-exhibits are the three robot arenas. Visitors drive robots with remote controls, trying to push balls through holes in the arenas. Of course, kids are thrilled to use them as battle bots for robot wars.
For those interested in Earth science, visitors to the T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall are welcomed with a huge fossilized Sauropod footprint, uncovered in nearby Glen Rose. The exhibit displays a myriad of dinosaur skeletons and fossilized shark teeth found in the Dallas area. One museum fossil expert even conducted an on-the-spot examination of a chunk of rock from a local rock quarry provided by a teen visitor, identifying it as pyrite, more commonly known as fool’s gold.
At the Lydia Hill Gems and Minerals Hall, visitors are greeted with a 4-foot purple amethyst cut into the shape of a heart, while in the Rees-Jones Foundation Dynamic Earth Hall, visitors experience the shaking of an earthquake on the earthquake simulation platform. The Discovering Life Hall mesmerizes kids with animal and bird exhibits featuring interactive birdcalls and stations infused with flower and animal scents. A word of caution: Parents, don’t let your kids trick you into smelling the skunk!
And what would a museum be without an impressive gift shop? Visitors can choose from a plethora of cool science-y treasures – hundreds of colorful polished rocks you can pick out and stuff into a small velvet bag, real Venus Fly-trap plants, and ingenious geeky T-shirts like Philosoraptor – a dino comicly sitting in the familiar “thinking man” pose. But beware – it’s hard to pull the kids away from the neat stuff available. Although you can take the stairs to get around the five-story museum, the elevators are sized for carrying families and strollers, so using them is convenient. The museum also includes a café and large outdoor area with tables to relax and plenty of outdoor space for the kids to run around. The courtyard even boasts a small wading stream for cooling tired bare feet.
“I love this place,” one young visitor told his parents, gripping his bag of rocks and reluctantly making his way to the exit.
K.L. Romo writes about life on the fringe: teetering dangerously on the edge is more interesting than standing safely in the middle. She is passionate about women’s issues, loves noisy clocks and fuzzy blankets, but HATES the word normal. Her historical novel, Life Before, is an edgy time-warping tale of reincarnation, social justice and forgiveness. KLRomo.com or @klromo.