The Discover NASA exhibit has launched at the East Meadow Public Library, and the goal is to give visitors a greater appreciation of space exploration.
Michael Fitzpatrick, who came to check out a new summer read, stopped by the free exhibit and walked away with a better understanding of the moon, Mars and the demands of being an astronaut.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Fitzpatrick, 62, of East Meadow, who was particularly intrigued by a simulated window from the International Space Station Cupola. “I plan to recommend it to my eight grandkids.”
The exhibit, which runs through Oct. 14, combines hands-on activities and interactive elements such as a green screen where users can try on a space suit and “report from Mars.” The library is one of eight to host Discover NASA after a competitive grant process sponsored by the Space Science Institute and NASA.
“The exhibit speaks to all ages,” says Jude Schanzer, the library’s director of public relations and programming. “Of course, it addresses the basics of the solar system and goes into space exploration and NASA’s work.”
Since opening in mid-July, the most popular component of the exhibit has been the creativity tables, an area loaded with building toys like Keva Planks and Legos, Schanzer says. Another table, she adds, features meteorites and information on their makeup and their journey to Earth. The NASA calendar, meanwhile, is composed of historic dates in space history and encourages guests to use Sticky Notes to post responses to the question “Where were you?” when those events occurred. Another hot spot? A station devoted to the work of astronauts at the International Space Station and their respective roles aboard a spaceship.
The exhibit includes information on energy and comets, videos on astronaut life and a challenging interactive quiz game that asks such questions as “Who is the only astronaut to hit a golf ball on the moon?” (Hint: Don’t choose Tiger Woods as your answer.)
June Wildes, an East Meadow resident, struggled to peel her sons, Grayden, 6, and Brody, 3, away from the quiz screen during a recent visit.
“His big boy room is going to be a space theme,” Wildes said of her younger son, who is particularly intrigued by the solar system.
Alex Lynch, 10, of Westbury, a fan of the idea of extraterrestrial life, visited the library with the intent to take out the latest “Harry Potter” book. He checked out the area that explained how astronauts survive in outer space, then tested his astronaut knowledge in the quiz game with his mother, Allison Lynch, by his side.
Schanzer is confident that the Discover NASA exhibit will capture kids’ attention and encourage exploration about space — in the library and beyond.
“It can keep you busy for hours,” she says. “People come many, many times to these exhibits.”
Fitzpatrick said last week’s visit may have been his first pass at the program, but it certainly wouldn’t be his last.
“I’ll definitely be back,” he said. “This is something you have to take time to go through.”