Space center

Dear Editor:

In reading "Downey's Space Shuttle Mock-Up Going Back in Storage" (The Downey Patriot, 12/19/13), two things become clear: not only is there no plan for the preservation and display of the shuttle mock-up, there's no plan to even develop a plan.

Although city officials readily admit the challenges they face with both the mock-up and the Columbia Memorial Space Center, no concrete vision has been developed for preserving these important treasures for future generations.

Instead, after sitting (and, according to some accounts, rotting away) under a rented party tent for nearly two years, the mock-up will soon be moved yet again, this time to the outdoor nursery of a city maintenance yard.

During the intervening period, reports indicate efforts were made to give the shuttle mock-up away to another city, clearly indicating our city's leadership appears to have little idea as to how to get out of this mess. Although I firmly believe our city's leadership has good intents, many of the actions taken thus far show an absolute refusal to fully embrace the mock-up as a piece of our history that must be preserved, and an equally steadfast refusal to - so far - bring in the leadership needed to ensure its preservation.

In possibly the best move taken by the city to address these challenges, the president and CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum was invited to share his thoughts about our space center and its operations. Among his recommendations? That the space center be allowed to operate with the least interference from city hall.

The time is right for the city to turn over operations for both the space center and the mock-up to a new non-profit organization, empowered to take the actions that need to be taken. (The center's current "foundation" has little authority.) The city would retain ownership of the building(s) and related land; daily operation of the artifacts and the program's educational mission would become the responsibility of experts, which could very well include former Rockwell Downey engineers and the many astronauts our nation's space program produced.

The Columbia Memorial Space Center and the space shuttle mock-up need to be under the stewardship of experts. Our city's space history deserves nothing less.

Mark Echmalian Downey

Dear Editor:

I was appalled to learn of the Columbia Memorial Space Center's policy regarding children. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult chaperone at all times during museum visits. I find this policy completely ridiculous.

I would like to suggest (free of any consultation fees) that if the museum wishes to thrive in this community it should stop marginalizing the very public it has been built to serve, the children of Downey.

I recently signed myself and my two children (ages 9 and 11) up for a robotics class. I was quickly informed that although there were no age restrictions to attend classes, it was for educators only. No problems, I told them I would pay for my children to enjoy the facilities for the couple of hours I was in class.


Among the reasons they gave for not allowing the children to enjoy the exhibits while I was in another room were, "It's our policy," "God-forbid something happens to your children" (although what could possibly happen while I'm in a room in the same building is beyond my imagination), "They might damage the exhibits" (news flash: many exhibits are already damaged with adult supervision), and "We can't be responsible for them."

On and on it went, all the reasons why they marginalized the very public they've committed to serve, the children of Downey.

Please understand this; I was not looking for someone to babysit my children. We live with their grandparents, I have babysitters galore. I trust my children. They are respectful and mature for their ages.

In my 30 years as an educator, I have learned a great many things from the children I serve. The most important is this: without risk, there is no growth.

I see the Columbia Memorial Space Center shrinking in its already small space because it is unwilling to risk in order to grow and as a side effect it's impeding the growth of the very public it wishes so desperately to serve, the children of Downey.

Alida Chacon Downey

********** Published: Dec. 26, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 37