DOWNEY - All systems are go, the Columbia Memorial Space Center is ready for liftoff.The Space Center at 12400 Clark Ave. will open to the general public this weekend. The 20,000 sq. ft. center honors Downey's expansive aerospace history as well as the fallen crew of STS-107 and the Space Shuttle Columbia. City officials are hoping the center, which cost about $10 million to build, will inspire children to seek careers in space exploration. The center is two stories, with an 18-ft. tall "Columbia Memorial Mosaic" in the lobby. On the ground floor visitors will find a rocket launcher exihibit, a soft landing exhibit, a flight simulator, a NASA gallery, a robotics lab featuring "dozens of programmable Lego Mindstorms robots," and an outdoor classroom for programs and presentations. A space-themed exploration area is on the second floor, along with a padded mini shuttle, a soft Mars crater, a space suit exhibit, planet and moons exhibit, a space shuttle and space station exhibit, an Earth from Space exhibit, and a space mission simulator created by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. "At the site where the Apollo space capsules and the Space Shuttle Orbiters were designed and largely fabricated, a new hands-on center for learning and career development has been built by the City of Downey," Jon Betthauser, executive director of the center, wrote in an information packet. "The Columbia Memorial Space Center also provides engaging programs and introductory instruction in engineering, science and technology while acknowledging some of the most important aerospace achievements in the 20th century." "Downey has been a center of aerospace innovation since 1929 when passenger and commuter airplanes were made here," Betthauser continued. "Since then, Vultee Aircraft Corporation, North American Aviation, Rockwell International and the Boeing Company have all made aviation and aerospace history in Downey. The Columbia Memorial Space Center will present an overview of this legacy, from Downey's crucial role in World War II, and the development of the first cruise missile in the 50s, to the engineering and building of the Apollo Command Modules and the Space Shuttle Orbiters." Tickets to the grand opening this weekend are free and available at the City Manager's Office located on the third floor of City Hall. Tickets are good for a one-hour time slot either Saturday or Sunday between noon and 6 p.m. Tickets are limited to four per person; people can pick whatever time slot they choose. During the one hour, the public can tour the Space Center and experience many of the exhibits, labs and programs. For more information, call the City Manager's Office at (562) 904-1895 or (562) 904-7286.
********** Published: October 23, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 27