SPACE & FLIGHT MONTH LAUNCHES THIS JANUARY AT DISCOVERY PARK OF AMERICA
Remember when I took you inside Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee, for the first time? There was so much to tell you, I hit the highlights, though there’s a story behind every gallery here.
In the attraction’s Science, Space and Technology Gallery, I recommended you pay the upcharge ($3.95 per person) to “board” Starship Theater, the intimate, interactive motion simulator designed exclusively for Discovery Park of America. At your scheduled time, you enter the theater. The lights go down, and you volunteer to be a pilot, engineer, scientist or passenger via the control panel on your armrest. Next, you rumble into space to fulfill your mission – collecting samples for scientific testing, piloting to Earth’s moon, and so on. During my visit, families and friends sat together laughing and competing in the dark on their shared mission. And, at least in our galaxy, Discovery Park of America’s Starship Theater is the only one of its kind.
Outside the theater, gallery visuals depict phases of the moon, telescope technology, meteorites and more:
Photos courtesy of Discovery Park of America.
Still, one of my favorite stories about the new Discovery Park of America is founder and benefactor Robert Kirkland’s commitment to the place: As if building the attraction, an 80-million-dollar undertaking, wasn’t enough, Kirkland has pledged a minimum of one million dollars annually for the next 20 years to refresh and expand its offerings.
Next up? Discovery Park of America’s Space and Flight Month, which promises to warm January 2014 with out-of-this-world inspiration:
- Jan. 3-5, 2014, catch Janet’s Planet live at Discovery Park to learn about interplanetary science. Kids can participate in a craft following the presentation. ($5 with park admission; multiple showtimes throughout the weekend – call 731-884-5455 for details.)
- Jan. 6-31, walk through a temporary space exhibit that will feature an Apollo astronaut suit (the real deal, worn by an astronaut during a moon landing – and valued at $100,000-plus), models of the International Space Station and the X-33 Space Plane, authentic moon rocks, shuttle commander pilot seats (photo op!) and space food samples. (Access to the temporary exhibit is free with park admission.)
- Jan. 10, 6-8 p.m.: Bring your own telescope and binoculars (or use those provided) for directed stargazing on the Great Lawn. (No additional charge.)
- Jan 11-12: Each day as you enter Discovery Park’s main lobby, you can view a lunar sample disc, or add $2 to your park admission for a spin on a multi-axis trainer (trainees must be 4′ tall).
- Jan 18: A classroom lecture series will roll all day, beginning with “Exotic Objects in Space” (11 a.m.-noon) and continuing with “Living in Space” (1-2 p.m.) and “GPS Navigation Tech and Geocaching” (3-4 p.m.). (No additional charge.)
- Jan. 19: Local stunt pilot Mike Rinker will perform an aerial demonstration and fly-by over the Great Lawn from 3:30-4 p.m. Arrive early for a chance to fly over Discovery Park in a helicopter flown by Rinker ($20 per person up to 60 participants; 1-3 p.m.).
- Jan. 24: Adults are invited to join former astronauts Robert “Hoot” Gibson and Rhea Seddon for happy hour (6 p.m.) and dinner (7 p.m.) in Discovery Park’s Dinosaur Hall ($25 for members; $30 for non-members), when the couple will unveil the donation of their training flight suits to Discovery Park’s permanent collection. The couple met in 1978 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, when they were among 35 candidates selected to train for the space shuttle program. Gibson, a decorated Navy flier, graduated to serve on five missions between 1984 and 1995, including the first mission to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir. Seddon, a native of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with a doctorate of medicine from the University of Tennessee, conducted several medical experiments during the space shuttle missions she completed.
- Jan. 25: An all-ages Meet the Astronauts with Gibson and Seddon from 1-3 p.m. in Discovery Park’s Dinosaur Hall (free with park admission, plus the first 500 children to arrive receive a free autographed photo of the astronauts!).
- Bonus: Throughout Space and Flight Month, a limited quantity of themed coloring books/crayons and airplanes will be given to visitors at the front desk.
Discovery Park of America is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. If you’ve already visited or joined Discovery Park as a member, tell us about your favorite feature in the comments below.