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Media Contact:  Shell Amegah, Paula Wagner or Isela Castillo
Pager number: 323-525-4529
February 25, 2002
New Air and Space Gallery Opens at the California Science Center March 9, 2002
Kenneth Ridgeway & Gabriel Villegas (seated from left to right) have fun adjusting the controls of a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter, one of the many real life artifacts in the Air & Space Gallery of the California Science Center. Photo by Leroy Hamilton.

LOS ANGELES - Peer into the cockpit of an F20 jet fighter suspended overhead, imagine yourself soaring over the city as you sit in a retired LAPD helicopter, or design and test your own customized spacecraft then see if it has the "right stuff" to handle rigors of a flight mission. These are just a few of the exciting interactive exhibits visitors can experience during their exploration of the awe-inspiring Air and Space Gallery, which returns to the California Science Center in Exposition Park, March 9, 2002.

Formerly known as Aerospace Hall and part of the California Museum of Science and Industry, the Air and Space Gallery has been closed since 1998 for building renovations, and updated to offer visitors a rich, one-of-a-kind exhibition experience.

Inside the visually stimulating, multi-level interior of the Air and Space Gallery, real air and spacecraft are suspended overhead, frozen mid-flight. Visitors will be able to probe the challenges of aeronautics and space exploration and see actual air and space craft used to journey into unknown realms. The Air and Space Gallery's interior space reaches seven stories high allowing many exhibit artifacts to be suspended. Planes such as the F20 Northrop jet fighter and historic Bell X-1 rocket plane, deep space probes such as prototypes for the Jupiter-bound Pioneer 10 and Mars-bound Viking Lander, and satellites such as the Uhuru X-ray telescope, can be viewed from the multi-level balconies. Other artifacts from NASA's early "manned" space program help interpret the dangers of spaceflight and include floor-mounted space capsules such as the actual Gemini 11 capsule, flown by astronauts Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon, and the Mercury Redstone 2 capsule that carried Ham, the chimpanzee. Other floor-mounted artifacts, all 1/5 scale, include important orbiting observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray telescope.

Children examine the Gemini 11 Space Capsule. This is the original Gemini 11 Space Capsule flown by astronauts Charles "Pete" Congrad Jr. & Richard "Dick" Gordon Jr. in 1966. This is one of several artifacts from NASA's early "Manned" space program on display in the Air & Space Gallery. Also on view from this program is the Mercury Redstone 2 capsule that carried Ham, the chimpanzee. Photo by Arana Sonnier

Few Angelinos realize the Air and Space Gallery is part of the California Science Center. Noted Phillips, "The new name was chosen so that the gallery wouldn't be mistaken for an entity separate from the Science Center." Visitors may now extend their Science Center stay simply by taking a short walk to the gallery next door. In addition to the interactive exhibits, they'll find a Discovery Room with plenty of hands-on activities designed for young children
and their parents. The gallery also houses its own air and space-themed ExploraStore satellite gift shop.

Architectural Highlights
The building and the original IMAX Theater were designed by noted architect Frank O. Gehry and its opening coincided with the 1984 Olympics held nearby in the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Renovations were completed by Fremer | Savel Architects, Inc. and reflect the firm's ability to creatively synthesize practical and innovative design solutions. Despite its illustrious architectural design, one of the building's most distinguishing features is the jet fighter plane perched precariously on the side of the building thus making it a recognizable landmark to passers-by.

Launch Yourself into History
The combination of a diverse range of historical artifacts enhanced with interactive activities helps visitors to the Air and Space Gallery understand the scientific principles that govern the design of air and spacecraft, as well as the equipment used to help humans endure extreme environments. The gallery experience is unlike any other on the West Coast. While other galleries may offer larger collections and provide larger numbers of interactive kiosks, none combine both to such a balanced extent. Says Phillips, "We didn't want to present a chronology or history of aviation and space flight. We wanted to offer a balanced program covering aircraft, human, and robotic space exploration. Hopefully, when visitors conclude their visits they will have a greater sense and understanding of the challenges design engineers face in each of those areas."

Four Themed Areas
The exhibits are presented in four themed areas to better offer visitors a unique and memorable experience. The four areas are:

  • Air + Aircraft
  • Stars + Telescopes
  • Humans in Space, and
  • Mission to the Planets

Hands-on kiosks invite visitors to engage in experiential activities where they can:

  • Design a jet fighter at a computer kiosk. Once the visitor's design selections are made, their custom aircraft is assembled on screen and transformed to show how actual designs vary.
  • Test how the shape of the wings impacts an aircraft's flight by sending balsa airplanes soaring across the room. Through this activity, visitors will learn how design tradeoffs affect the performance of an aircraft.
  • Put on "wings" by placing their arms through a pair of large airfoils and stepping into a wind tunnel of air generated by a fan that directs a steady flow of air across the airfoil wings. Visitors adjust the angle of their wings to feel the "lift", learning how air exerts a force, depending on how it flows and the angle of what it hits.
  • Launch model rockets of low, medium and heavy mass by creating energy using "power up" cranks and good old elbow grease. Each rocket requires a specific rotation rate to achieve liftoff, demonstrating that heavier objects need more energy to make them go faster.

Smithsonian Affiliate Program
In October 2000, the California Science Center entered a new phase in its long-standing relationship with the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum by becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate. "This prestigious affiliation means the Air & Space Gallery is eligible for loans of the most desirable and difficult to obtain artifacts and shares in the care of artifacts from the national collection, " noted Phillips. This responsibility is a source of pride as it redefines the Science Center as a curatorial extension of the National Air and Space Museum. Another benefit of the new designation, the Science Center may borrow significant artifacts from the Smithsonian collection and display them for longer periods of time. The extended loan periods allow for planning exhibitions with long term educational goals and benefit to the viewing public.

Art and Science
One of the on-going exhibit themes at the Science Center is an innovative art-science program for local youth. A new partnership with the Watts Towers Art Center will establish a Community Art Gallery called Aeroscapes, located near the Air and Space Discovery Room. Initially, first and second grade classes from Ritter Elementary School in Watts will participate by creating 3D art projects that combine different solar system destinations with the spacecraft used to reach them. Future exhibitions will explore aeronautics, astronomy, planetary science, rocketry, space suit design and more. The art projects may take the form of charcoal and other drawings, paintings, ceramics, sculpture, print making and photography and will be changed quarterly. Friends of the Watts Towers Arts Center will support this partnership by providing matching funds to cover materials and supplies, and assist with the expansion of the program to nine area schools.

Note to Editors: Air and Space Program Curator Kenneth Phillips, Ph.D., is available for interviews. Air and Space Media Preview Day is Thursday, February 28, 2002.

California Science Center, located at 700 State Drive in Exposition Park, Los Angeles, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission to the exhibitions is free. For recorded information on IMAX show times, phone (213) 744-7400. For advance ticket purchases, group rates, or to make reservations for any visiting group of 15 or more (required), call (213) 744-2019. Parking is available in the guest lot at Figueroa and 39th Street for $6 per car. Both the Science Center and IMAX Theater are wheelchair accessible. For general information, phone (323) SCIENCE or visit our website at www.casciencectr.org.

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