TRAVERSE CITY — The National Cherry Festival launched with the help of a new exhibit.
Parked in front of the Traverse City Visitors Center was NASA: Journey to Tomorrow, provided by the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
Families and festival goers lined up around the block to enter the 53-foot trailer housing the exhibit which featured informational videos on Mars Land Rovers, astronaut health and space aviation. Touch screens showed digital experiments visitors could conduct such as how a difference in gravity affects an object’s movement.
The exhibit also displayed a moon rock brought back from the Apollo program and had a station for visitors to put their hands in space suit gloves and test their motor skills. In the rear of the exhibit was the dynamic planet simulator which would mimic the appearance of planets and other bodies in the solar system.
Debbie Lockhart, community outreach specialist at the Glenn Research Center, said they take the trailer out to events in order to get the community involved and inspired about their upcoming projects.
July 20 is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing and Lockhart said NASA is preparing to get back to the moon within five years by 2024. This is part of a larger mission to put humans on Mars so Lockhart said NASA is placing more emphasis on public events to get the public excited.
“The kids who are in middle school and high school are the ones who are going to be going to Mars, not the older generations,” Lockhart said. “So I think it’s really important to get out there and show them what NASA has to offer and get them inspired.”
Michael Brandon is an exhibit technician and runs the trailer. For the duration of the exhibit, he positioned himself next to the dynamic planet simulator to operate it and answer questions from visitors. Some would stand patiently and listen to his informational speeches about each of the planets and Brandon said it seemed as if every person who came through learned something.
“NASA is a government agency and paid for by the taxpayers,” he said. “So this is our way of letting the community know what’s going on and how their money is being spent. We come out and talk to people about some of our missions, what we’re doing, what our goals are,” he said.
Brandon said his favorite part was talking to the kids, some of which had to be dragged away by their parents.
Laura Mittelstaedt had to coax her 3-year-old son away from the space gloves because he wanted to keep playing with them. She said the touchscreens and interactive exhibits helped to keep her children curious.
“It seems like they’re gearing up to make this big push to Mars,” Mittelseaedt said. “There are a lot of exciting things going on and even if my son didn’t quite understand that, there were still a lot of visually stimulating things going on and he had a good time.”
Holly Scheffler brought her two sons to the exhibit because both of them love airplanes and rockets.
“It’s fascinating for them,” she said as her sons pulled her towards the rides. “You don’t get to see this sort of stuff very often.
“It’s so cool to see what NASA’s up to and it’s great to hear about it from people who are so knowledgeable.”