LONG BEACH – The presence of Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and Captain America was nothing out of the ordinary for the Columbia Memorial Space Center this past weekend as it took part in the Long Beach Comic Expo.
This is the space center’s second involvement in the yearly convention, known as “Space Expo,” which took place over the entire two days of the LBCE. Space Expo included several panels hosted by various experts in the space and science field, as well as a 2000 square feet section of the convention floor.
CMSC President and Executive Director Benjamin Dickow said that he believes that the sci-fi and comic audience is the same audience that loves space and science.
“In my opinion, without a manned space program currently going on it’s been the ‘geek’ culture that’s been keeping the space program alive,” said Dickow. “So it’s time that we bring space to them.”
The Space Expo’s floor space was covered with professionals that convention attendees could interact with as well as several activities to participate in. Involved in the space were The R2D2 Builders club, Global Effects Inc., Estes Rockets, Meade Instruments, Deezmaker 3-D printing, and the Girl Scouts of America who showed off their rockets and robots.
CMSC Program Director Rick O’Connor described the space expo as “my favorite thing that we do now.”
“Superman is one of the very first comic book super heroes out there, and he was an alien; he came from space,” said O’Connor. “Space has been a part of science fiction, comic books since its beginning really. So there’s a natural bridge there and we’re getting to tell people that story.
"And to me these JPL scientists, they’re going to space. You know we can write stories about Green Lantern going to space all we want but these are the people who are actually going there. So to me these are kind of the super heroes. So we get to kind of bring them together: we have the written, the drawn super heroes [and] we have heroes that are going to space now. We get to meld them together. It’s great.”
O’Connor also added that it is also equally important to get the exposure.
“It’s huge...back when the space program first started in the 60’s, you know we went to the moon and that was a huge deal. Everyone knew who all the astronauts were; they were celebrities. And then after a while it seemed like people going to the moon was no big deal, it became kind of boring…it seemed to kind of fall out of favor with the public,” said O’Connor.
“…It’s slowly starting to come back, and that’s really huge. Funding for NASA is dropping drastically. And if we get the public interest back up in it again, we’re only going to do better in those fields. It’s really important to foster this interest in space.”
Dickow also talked of the importance of the exposure for science, and added that it also benefited the community back home.
“This a great platform to get the City of Downey’s name out,” said Dickow. “There’s going to be 40,000 people here this weekend; in September there were even more. We’ve had direct interactions with over 10,000…every one of them has the City of Downey’s name in their hand. That’s pretty cool.”
CMSC plans on returning to the Long Beach Convention Center again later this summer.