By Lori Melton
The exciting field of space exploration blends STEAM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, art, and math. While students are not yet able or equipped for space travel, there are many ways they can learn about outer space via fun STEAM-based educational opportunities. Here are three excellent options.
Attend Space Camp
The U.S. space program has its roots in Huntsville, Alabama, which is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center museum and the unparalleled U.S. Space Camp. Space Camp trainees travel from all 50 states and 120 countries around the world to experience the unique training and space mission scenarios they face over a week-long intensive educational, hands-on experience focused on outer space including:
- Astronaut training with NASA’s adapted astronaut equipment
- Launching simulated missions to the International Space Station
- Building and launching a model rocket
- Designing and building a futuristic Martian colony
- Learning about space hardware
- Enjoying water activities and so much more
In a Space Camp alumni survey, 64 percent of graduates said Space Camp encouraged them to take more STEM classes and 61 percent of graduates reported being currently in or studying for careers in aerospace, defense, energy, education, biotech or technology.
Visit Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
There may not be a more comprehensive glimpse into the history of space exploration than what you can discover during a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. You can blast off into space to witness the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope or plunge through the galaxy and into a black hole on virtual reality simulator rides. Learn about Human Space Exploration from the ’60s and beyond via a Discovery Station featuring hands-on demonstrations with real space artifacts and spacesuits. Watch an IMAX 3D movie about space exploration called “Journey to Space” and browse amazing museum exhibits including the Ranger Spacecraft, Lunar Orbiter, Lunar Module LM-2, the Mercury Friendship 7, the Apollo 11 Command Module “Columbia” and many more.
Get Immersed in Outer Space at a Local Planetarium
If you’d prefer to explore outer space locally, there are a number of spectacular planetariums located throughout California to give you an immersive experience via special topics, star shows and telescope viewing opportunities.
The UCLA Planetarium offers a special topic presentation, followed by a show usually showcasing the current night sky, constellations, astronomical phenomena and more. The planetarium at the Reuben Fleet Science Center in San Diego presents a monthly astronomer-led planetarium show that explores the solar system and cosmos with a new topic on the first Wednesday each month. The San Diego Astronomy Association also offers free telescope viewing outside after each show, weather permitting. A Google search of “Planetariums near me” should help you find the closest planetariums in your local area.