Space Journey exhibition blasts off today in Idaho

Through Sept. 10: On display is NASA's past, present and future, along with other space artifacts
By Kristen Moulton
The Salt Lake Tribune
February 7, 2005

IDAHO FALLS - Jeff Duce and Robert Leishman, juniors in engineering at Utah State University, couldn't wipe off their grins Monday as they walked among the spacecraft, rocket engines and flight simulators at the Museum of Idaho.

"I'm like a kid in a candy store," Duce said. "I'm going crazy."

The Museum of Idaho, which opened two years ago in Idaho Falls with the national exhibit called A Dinosaur Named Sue, has assembled spacecraft replicas, a satellite, a moon rock and miniscule rocks from Mars for its new exhibit: Space Journey.

It even boasts an authentic Hollywood prop - the replica of the command module used in the Ron Howard's hit movie "Apollo 13."

Space Journey opens today and runs through Sept. 10.

USU and its Space Dynamics Laboratory have loaned several pieces for the exhibit, including a satellite, a replica of the Wright Flyer and vessels that carried student experiments into space.

Duce first began working on his experiment - the behavior of bubbles when water boils in space - while attending Box Elder High.

The garbage-can sized container that took his experiment into space after he went to USU is on display at the Museum of Idaho, as is a replica of the USU box that carried the wheat-growing experiment aboard the Mir space station.

"I didn't think in tiny Idaho Falls we'd have this mass of high technology," Duce said. "I am impressed."

Leishman was surprised by the breadth of the exhibits. "It's nerdy. But that's OK because I'm a nerd."

He has that in common with Jake Garn, the former U.S. senator from Utah who spent seven days orbiting the Earth aboard the space shuttle in 1985.

Garn attended the museum Monday, regaling those on a pre-opening tour with stories from his time in space.

He recalled one of his first encounters with zero gravity when he pushed away from a wall with his foot and torpedoed across the shuttle and hitting his head.

"I could do things Mary Lou Retton [then a top U.S. gymnast] couldn't even think about," he said while aboard a museum replica of the International Space Station.

After he landed, he tried to hold his youngest daughter, then 3, and nearly tipped over because his center of gravity was up around his neck.

Garn said exhibits such as Space Journey are particularly valuable for the enthusiasm they generate in children.

"This can get them excited and motivated with what they can do with their lives," he said.

Brian Binnie, the pilot who flew the first private spacecraft last October, also attended Monday's news conference. He reached an altitude of 328,000 feet, winning the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for his company, Scaled Composites, which developed the X-15 craft.

Binnie will give a presentation on the design and testing of SpaceShipOne tonight at 7 at the Bennion Student Union at University Place in Idaho Falls.

Besides the moon rock and "Apollo 13" replica, the museum is displaying pieces from such institutions as Utah's Hill Air Force Base and Alabama's Marshall Space Flight Center.

Museum visitors who are at least 5-foot-3 and weigh less than 260 pounds, can ride on the Multi-Axis Trainer, on loan from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and experience what it's like to tumble through space.

© Copyright 2005, The Salt Lake Tribune.