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Exploring Space with the Challenger Learning Center of Northern Nevada

August in Northern Nevada is hot. And while we’re lucky to not have the mugginess of the Midwest where I’m from, it can still be fairly uncomfortable to be outside for any length of time – unless you’re by a pool, of course. That’s why when the opportunity to attend Science Saturdays at the National Automobile Museum came up, I jumped at the chance. The theme was Food in Space with Chef Craig Rodrigue of Adele’s fame, and offered activities presented by the Challenger Learning Center of Northern Nevada.

First thing, right off the bat, I have to admit: I’d never been to the National Automobile Museum. As someone who eats, sleeps and breathes Hot August Nights as a part of her job in hospitality, I honestly thought I’d seen them all. Not so fast! The museum completely blew me and my husband away. Who knew they had vehicles from the 1800s? The winning vehicle from the 1908 New York to Paris auto race, complete with jaw-dropping, thought-provoking photos? Not me. And let me tell you, it’s going to be a place I put on our “if you’re visiting, we’re going there” list. The museum boasts such an amazing collection of cars, and it was really fun for my kids (ages 6 and 3), too.



Okay, back to Science Saturdays.

The Challenger Learning Center of Northern Nevada is a space-lovers dream come true. They use space exploration and innovation as a vehicle for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math, Media & Medicine (STEAM) programs, and do it in a fun, interactive way. We started the day with a presentation by Chef Rodrigue all about food in space, and the challenges of figuring out how to contain crumbs and keep liquids in straws due to that whole zero gravity thing. My six-year old was engaged and interested – the three year old, not so much, but he did happen to see some Star Wars memorabilia when we walked in, so he would have been distracted no matter what was happening in front of him.

Following Chef’s presentation, we all got to try a sample of astronaut ice cream, which was very popular (and creamy, believe it or not!).

ice cream

Then, the group split into two, with half going to the Planetarium Dome, and the other into a space shuttle bound for the International Space Station. We were in the dome first, and got to experience a 360* view of an educational show We Choose Space, narrated in part by Walter Cronkite. We then switched and rode on a space shuttle up to the International Space Station. My kids LOVED this part, and really thought we were in space. The group got back together for lunch, made up of foods astronauts would actually eat in space, including both dried and dehydrated strawberries, peanut butter and jelly, and applesauce. Oh, and more astronaut ice cream.

astronaut food

space shuttle

space shuttle_1

space shuttle_2

Science Saturdays at the National Automobile Museum is a wonderful resource to our community, and one I encourage you to attend. The next one is September 10, when they will be Training Astronauts for Space Missions, and kids and kids at heart can practice exploring space in full-size cockpits. On October 8th, guests will experience what it’s like to drive on Mars, using virtual reality and touch screens to plot their course on Mars. November 12 is all about the secrets of the sun, and December 10 is about imaging space targets, and finding and printing space objects from robotic telescopes.

Programming runs from 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., and is $12 per person for children and adults, and includes admission to the Automobile Museum. The programs are designed for those eight years and older, and you must pre-register at nevadachallenger.org.


About Tracie Barnthouse

Tracie Barnthouse
A Midwestern girl who has laid roots in Reno, Tracie Barnthouse is the mother of two {A (4) and E (9 months)}, and wife of one (Token). Publicist by day, her job keeps her busy, and she’s still learning that tightrope walk of work/life balance. Barnthouse moved to Reno in 2012 from Sicily, Italy, where she lived for four years. Prior to that, four years were spent on the island of Guam, but she’s come to realize that home isn’t defined by a speck on a map. From overseas travel tips with infants and toddlers to glimpses of everyday life, she hopes to share stories that help us realize we’re all on this crazy ride called Motherhood together.

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