Yesterday we packed up our Crack Team of Girl Scouts, plus one small boy, and drove down to the New England Air Museum for their Space Expo event. It was a perfect day for a museum trip: chilly and wet.
For anyone in the region, the Air Museum is worth a trip to Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. They have a fabulous collection of aircraft, including a restored B-29, and a whole assortment of Sikorsky planes and copters. Many of the museum volunteers are retired aircraft builders, so if you go on a slow day you can hear some fascinating stories.
The Space Expo was an odd mix of events and demonstrations ranging from slickly professional to amateurishly enthusiastic. Astronaut Cady Coleman was on duty the whole day, giving several presentations about working in space, including the inevitable "how do you go to the bathroom?" explanation. Being in charge of a wiggly six-year-old I had to skip her talk, but I did manage to see the presentation on Mars colonization. It was, I must confess, somewhat dispiriting. Far too much focus on frankly bogus "benefits" of the project. (Guess what? Colonizing Mars won't help overpopulation on Earth, nor will managing an enclosed artificial ecosystem in a Mars colony help us understand Earth's vast and chaotic web of environments. Either leaving Earth is worth doing for its own sake, or it's not worth doing at all. Developing a better flavor of Tang isn't enough.)
A number of local clubs and groups had displays: we saw a nifty indoor rocketry demonstration by a model rocket club, a simulator of the original Wright Flyer airplane (not sure what that had to do with space, but it was fun), and a display about (once again) space toilets by an engineer from one of the nearby aerospace contractors. Our six-year-old got to try on a spacesuit.
Overall, the Space Expo was fun, in a kind of sweet, community event way. There was no irony present in the building. I seriously doubt that anyone there wasn't already interested in space exploration, so I can't say that it raised much awareness or changed any minds. But we'll probably go again next year.