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A New Exhibit Blasts Off At The Air Zoo

John Raoux
AP Photo

The Air Zoo in Portage has a new traveling exhibit that takes a realistic look at what it's like to travel in space.

The “Be an Astronaut” exhibit simulates what it’s like to complete a space mission. Air Zoo President and CEO Troy Thrash says it was developed by Eureka Exhibits and uses data from actual space missions.

"The cool thing about all of this is that this isn’t just a simulation. That all of these adventures use real NASA data, so when you’re driving a rover on Mars you are driving over the actual Martian surface.”

Thrash says visitors are guided through three training stations by virtual spaceflight experts. He says the experience is hands-on and highly immersive.

“You actually hop into the cockpit of a simulator, and you can choose, again, the mission you wanna take. Do you want to drive a rover around Mars? Do you wanna fly a rocket towards another planet, or to the moon?”

Thrash says the four-month break during the pandemic gave the Air Zoo the opportunity to create a better experience for guests. He says that includes other new exhibits and a new “Launchpad to Learning” Youtube channel.

Thrash says the exhibit also gives people a glimpse at what our future in space could be.

“For us old people, the closest we will ever get to driving a rover on the moon, but perhaps with these young kids they’re going to be doing that for real one day, so it’s a really cool opportunity for us to be able to talk about that.”

The exhibit is included with the museum's general admission and is open until September 12, 2021.

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