Friday was supposed to be for Atlanta. I have something belonging to my oldest son that he needs, and he has all of my Rome travel books, so we were going to make a trade.
Work, however, had exhausted him (he works in a field in which the ebb and flow of the NBA playoffs are currently the scheduler and has something like five days off since mid-March) and he asked if we could try for next weekend. Sure.
It’s not a new destination. We’ve visited many times. In fact, three years ago, we went almost every week. J was doing a Lego Robotics team up there, and during his time, M and I would find other things to do – and since the space center admission is free with our local science center membership, we often found ourselves wandering over there.
(If you have a membership in any ASTC institution, you can get in free. I’ve found that it’s quite a good deal – when we went to Chicago a couple of years ago, we didn’t pay to get into either the Field or the Museum of Science and Industry, thanks to that membership, saving a bundle. Be sure to check, though, because institutional affiliations do change – the last time we attempted to go to Fernbank in Atlanta, I discovered that they were no longer members of ASCA, and therefore..we’d have to pay to get in. We had been before, it’s a small museum, so itwouldn’t have been worth it. I think I tried to find the big antique mall in Decatur that day then, instead.)
But it had been a couple of years, so why not? It takes about an hour and half to get to Huntsville from here, so we could go up, visit the museum, and be back by high school dismissal time.
Soundtrack for the ride: The Essential Weird Al.
(Tour coming to Birmingham in June!)
Listening to Weird Al Yankovic always takes me back, not so much because of him, but because of his association with Dr. Demento, who “discovered” him – or whom Weird Al insisted discover him.
I used to listen to Dr. Demento on Saturday nights as a pre-teen and teen up in Knoxville. It was all so primitive. I’d have a radio and a tape recorder at the ready, prepared to record my favorites – usually Tom Lehrer or Spike Jones. For some reason I also associate him (Dr. Demento, not Weird Al) with Lent, to those Saturday nights I would stay up past midnight and he was my soundtrack to breaking open those brownies or chips I’d given up, doctor of the law that I was.
The center is a good visit. It’s not burdened with a lot of the extra charges you find with so many museums these days, although SPACE CAMP is thrown in your face at every turn.
(Me thinking…hmmm..maybe Space Camp is a possibility for Someone….Me looking at brochure and seeing cost: Oh.)
(A little under a thousand for most weeks)
We wandered. He rode the G-Force ride – his favorite thing – a couple of times, and did the climbing wall a couple of times as well. At the climbing wall, I pulled the former-teacher-card, as two kids (part of the many school groups there that day) broke line to stand with their friends near the front. No one was saying anything to them, so I did. “The back of the line is there” – I pointed. They shrugged and moved. It’s not that hard.
The special exhibits there are, I’ve found, never that great. They try to be all interactive and glossy, but end up being busy and not very informative. But the Saturn V hall is still so spectacular and interesting. We simply walked around, reviewing the general course of the American space quest, and talked about why all this is in Huntsville. An elderly docent intercepted us a couple of times and gave us some fun facts: About how the moon rocks confirmed the theory that the moon broke off from the earth (the basalt in the moon rocks is only found on the earth as well, not in other cosmic bodies), and about how during the Apollo 7 mission, all three of the astronauts came down with a stomach virus immediately after launch and the capsule was such a hideous mess at the end, when they opened it on the aircraft carrier, crew members passed out. Now you know!
If you go, I’d recommend the “Science in Space” presentation about the International Space Station. It’s a good introduction to the history of the ISS, the current missions and the role of the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville in those missions – followed by a quick walkthrough of a model of part of the station, which I presume is mostly there because of SPACE CAMP.
It also put me in the mood to watch The Right Stuff. Hopefully we can get it in tonight, quickly skipping over the “SPERM” scene. Love that movie.
A quick stop at a pet store – Animal Trax – on the way home that we had discovered on those previous regular Huntsville visits. It’s a favorite because they have a lot of reptiles on display. Unfortunately, they only had about half as many as before. They have a downtown Huntsville store now, and perhaps they have moved most of the critters down there.
Well, we did feed a tortoise. So there’s that.
I wish I had taken a photo of the description card on this. It’s a painting of the interior of, I think some sort of Juno rocket. I’m sure someone can correct me. But what was striking is that it was an instructional tool – and it’s this lovely, delicately rendered painting, not a soulless diagram.