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'Astronaut' at Arizona Science Center lets kids explore space and what it's like to be a space explorer

Arizona Science Center Astronaut exhibition.jpg
Posted at 8:50 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 23:50:05-04

PHOENIX — From prehistoric to out of this world, the latest exhibition to open at the Arizona Science Center aims to offer kids and adults a glimpse into what it's like to train to be an astronaut and what life aboard the International Space Station looks like.

Astronaut, a traveling exhibition, opened Feb. 16, 2021, and is scheduled to run until May 31, 2021, at the Arizona Science Center. It replaces the Victoria the T.rex exhibition, which was on display for a year at the science center.

"It’s all about how astronauts undergo both physical and mental changes to become space explorers," said Sari Custer, chief curiosity officer at the Arizona Science Center.

From preparing for the g-forces upon liftoff to being part of a simulated rocket launch to, erm, going to the bathroom in space, there are 29 hands-on exhibits that show what space life is like.

"One of the ultimate favorites is the lunar loo -- the space toilet," Custer said. "Everyone has to go and we have information on how people go in space."

Another popular experience is the G-force trainer, which is similar to the spinning teacups ride, Custer said. Kids and adults propel themselves from inside a space capsule and see how many G-forces they can create.

In terms of safety, many of the science center's COVID-19 protocols are in place. Advanced reservations and time-specific tickets are being sold for Astronaut to control traffic flow, masks are required, there are hand sanitization stations throughout the center and the exhibition, and enhanced cleaning of hands-on elements.

Another part of the exhibition that Custer is excited about is that it can potentially inspire the next generation of space explorers whether they're on the ground or in space.

"I've heard so many (kids) tell me they want to be astronomers and astronauts," said Custer.

"It also builds excitement around the current things we’re seeing in space science," she said, such as the landing of the NASA's Perseverance Rover on March and SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket which propelled NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

Due to the pandemic, tickets to visit the Arizona Science Center have changed. The center is now offering both guided and self-guided tours to explore all of its different exhibitions. The Astronaut exhibition is an additional ticket, which is $7 for members and $9 for non-members.

The science center is open Wednesday - Monday, 10:30 a.m - 4 p.m., and closed on Tuesday for cleaning. Visit www.azscience.org/attractions/astronaut-exhibition for more information and to purchase tickets.