Monday, December 13, 2010

Astronaut Training

A couple of weekends ago M and I spent almost the entire weekend in astronaut training. Well, he spent it in training. I was just helping him.

But before that happened, we went to a friend's birthday. Actually, the birthday was at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. It's an awesome place with a rocket outside and a bunch of cool exhibits inside and on the museum's grounds. And yes, kids can touch and play with pretty much anything there.
So on that particular trip M spent quite a lot of time outside, primarily at the water feature. He said it was a space station's chocolate making factory. Making space chocolates... Hmm, as long as he's got his priorities straight.

Inside the museum M spent most of the time at the astronaut's exhibit looking at the videos of lunar landings and monkeys getting trained up for space flights. He also spent quite some time at this contraption kinda like the one they have at some malls. We launched a few coins down it and M concluded that it was a black hole (I couldn't agree more).
Finally, he spent the remaining hour or so in the space capsule, counting down and launching it (his countdown goes like this: "One-two-three-one-blast off!".
So the following weekend we had an astronaut training camp. Since M already knows so much about solar system, it was a bit of a challenge to come up with the age-appropriate learning tasks. And then I realized that even though we had a total of 4 solar systems around the house, we didn't have a single comet!

That became our first training task - to learn about comets and make one. Here it is, complete with a tissue-paper tail and a cotton-ball coma.
We then experimented with gravity, practiced putting the space suit on, discussed which foods cannot be eaten on the space station, ran around a little obstacle course, and went to the planetarium. By the way, M wore his full astronaut costume - space suit, glothes, helmet, etc - into the planetarium to the great pleasure of 100 or so people that happened to also attend the "Earth, Moon and Sun" show there that morning.

Further training was delayed due to inclement weather - snow! It was awesome, falling in huge heavy clumps that quickly covered the garden, the car, the driveway. M was so excited! You can see that he didn't even want to take time to change from his astronaut suit, but instead put a shark hat and a jacket on.

But then the novelty wore off and it started getting really cold outside. So we went inside and made a huge space mural of Astronaut M Exploring Lunar Surface. Then, while M acted out space shuttle's landing on the Moon and launch of Hubble, I asked him all sorts of questions for his letter to NASA (because you know, now that he is ready, it's up to them to decide what mission he'll fly and when).

Plus M wrote his own letter to NASA just to be on the safe side. Afterwards he put some more star and planet stickers on his space ship (he says they show all the places the space ship's been to) and the day was over. Now we're waiting for NASA to write back to us.

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