“Do you know about the Planetarium in Arlington? Would you like to meet an Astronaut?” asked Maria Dittrich of the Friends of the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium of children and adults at the USA Engineering and Science Festival. “We have one at our booth. You can talk to her and ask her questions about her career and what it was like to go into outer space.”
“If I tried to drink water in outer space just as I do here on earth, it would float away out of the cup. Because of the zero gravity environment, I had to drink from a straw which itself had a clip on it,” said Dr. Sandra Mangus, President of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a veteran of three space missions. “Going into outer space is easier than coming back to earth. My body had to get used to the force of gravity again. You don’t think about gravity as much until you’re removed from its pull and have readjust to it,” she continued.
“I wanted to be an astronaut ever since I was in middle school. My educational path led me to gain backgrounds in Physics, Engineering and Materials Science and what I enjoy most about being an astronaut is that I am continually learning new things,” continued Dr. Mangus who was the featured guest at the booth of the Friends’ on Saturday, April 26.
From April 25-27, the 3rd annual USA Engineering and Science Festival took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The event which was free to the public drew thousands of children and adults who were all eager to learn about different aspects of the world of STEM. Attendees were treated an assortment of science demonstrations, exhibits, books signings, games and talks. Among the notable speakers/personalities were Bill Nye the Science Guy, Dr. Michio Kaku and Mike Rowe to name just a few, who all spoke at various stages throughout the convention center.
“I lost my nose in a sword duel with Manderup Parsberg when we had a disagreement over whose theories about our solar system and outer space were correct,” said another well-known scientist; Tycho Brahe who also made an appearance at the Friends’ booth in addition to Nicolaus Copernicus. The two scientists were portrayed by Physics teacher Dean Howarth, and one of his students from Project Enlightenment, Taj Rauch.
Potentially the largest draw at the Friends’ booth was the planet toss, where youngsters and a few adults who wanted to try the game took turns tossing toy comets through holes representing planets and comets from our solar system and outer space. The spectroscopes which allowed for the observance of the unique spectra of the elements helium, hydrogen and neon were also very popular as well.
The Friends’ booth was just one of many on at the festival that day. In addition to the Astronomy and Space Exploration pavilion, there were also pavilions in other areas including:
• National Security
• Earth Sciences
• Social Sciences
• Natural Sciences
The festival was one of the rare events where the Friends’ weekend activities were held at a location other than the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium. The Friends will return the planetarium in May where the theme with will be Mathematically Speaking. Details can be found on the Friends’ website.