NASA Memorializes Its Past Greatness While Forging A New Space Frontier
Editor’s Note: Throughout 2016, Americans were consumed with the “soap opera” that was the presidential election. The intensity and drama of the contest crowded out most other news of the day – particularly in the area of science and technology, a major emphasis in higher education for the 21st century, as well as a field replete with Hispanic success stories. In one of the most underreported stories of the year NASA quietly expanded their frontier both on earth and in space with an astounding and successful unmanned mission to Jupiter as part of its Juno program. As scientists cheered and delighted in the stunning images transmitted back to Earth from a planet 365 million miles from its closest point, and 601 million miles away at its farthest, they also ended the year on a somber note. In December, the United States lost a true American hero when former astronaut John Glenn died at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Here are stories that celebrate NASA’s illustrious past by way of their tribute to Glenn, one of their own, and by opening a museum to NASA’s history, as well as a NASA story that shines a bright light on the ambitious future they have envisioned for themselves
Story courtesy of U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A blast of colors lit up the sky at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida above the new Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame presented by Boeing. The spirited pyrotechnics display marked the opening of the new attraction, which was attended by more than 25 veteran and current NASA astronauts, including revered Gemini and Apollo space program astronauts Buzz Aldrin, James Lovell and Thomas Stafford. They were joined by the adult children of the late-astronauts Alan Shepard and Neil Armstrong, as well as representatives from NASA, The Boeing Company and Delaware North.
Designed to be the first stop upon entering Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Heroes & Legends uses the early years of the space program to explore the concept of heroism, including those exhibited by John Glenn, and the qualities that define the individuals who inspired their generation. The 37,000-square-foot, retro-fitted building marries cutting-edge technology with mesmerizing special effects, priceless artifacts and thought-provoking exhibits.
“The opening of Heroes & Legends marks a true milestone for Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex,” said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer. “Heroes & Legends offers the opportunity to learn about the amazing attributes of our heroes behind the transformative and historical events that have shaped the way we look at space, the world and the future. It will not only entertain and inspire guests, but lay the groundwork for their interactions throughout the other amazing attractions to create memorable space experiences.”
Heroes & Legends is separated into three distinct experiences, plus the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame:
In the stunning 360-degree discovery bay, What is a Hero?, guests explore how society defines heroism through diverse perspectives. Each examination of heroism starts with the following questions: What is a hero; Who are the heroes of our time; and What does it take to be a hero? During the seven-minute presentation, the historic beginning of the space race is acknowledged as the impetus for America’s push to the stars in NASA’s early years and the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Through the Eyes of a Hero is a custom-built theater featuring a multisensory 4-D experience during which guests vicariously join NASA’s heroes and legends on the most perilous stages of their missions. Artistically choreographed lighting and special effects are enhanced by intense, deeply resonant sound effects and surrounding images to create the sensation of being “in the moment.” The seven-and-a-half-minute show takes guests on an intimate journey with four space-age heroes – Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and James Lovell – to fully immerse them in the awe, excitement and dangers of the first crewed space program missions.
The third experience, A Hero Is…, offers interactive exhibits that highlight the nine different attributes of our history-making astronauts: inspired, curious, passionate, tenacious, disciplined, confident, courageous, principled and selfless. Through the use of holograms and augmented reality, visitors will be able to interact with space program artifacts in a way never before possible.
A collection of nine exhibit modules explores each aforementioned attribute through the actual experiences of NASA’s astronauts and memorabilia. Their stories are enhanced with real artifacts from the astronauts and the space program, including a Gemini IX capsule featuring a realistic projection of astronaut Gene Cernan climbing out of the tiny spacecraft. Other interactive features inspire further exploration of the original Mercury Mission Control room consoles with a periodic flashback to the tense moments preceding the landing of Freedom 7 by astronaut John Glenn. Rounding out the collection of authentic artifacts is a Sigma 7 Mercury spacecraft, which is paired with a Mercury-Redstone rocket, and Gus Grissom’s Mercury spaceflight suit.
The culminating exhibit of Heroes & Legends is the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Housed in a majestic rotunda, the exhibit intimately connects the visitor to each of the nearly 100 astronaut inductees through the use of state-of-the-art interactive technology. A signature element of the experience is the ability to capture a memento: a special photo opportunity that allows guests to pose with one of the Mercury astronaut heroes and legends. •