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Universal Curiosity: New exhibit to show children galactic wonder

January 29, 2019

A constellation of bright smiles and shining eyes from Yturria Elementary School students helped launch the Children Museum of Brownsville’s newest exhibit Monday morning: the Sun, Earth, Universe exhibit.

The exhibit features an interactive series of stations that teach children concepts related to space and space-related phenomena.

But before the children donned headphones to embark on an audio tour through the new exhibit, they listened to an inspirational message from Carol Lutsinger, a member of the American Astronomical Society, longtime Brownsville Independent School District educator and astronomy columnist for The Brownsville Herald.

"I want you kids to dream big and you may be one of the first Martians," Lutsinger said. "You never know where life is going to take you. ... Look up at the night sky and dream big."

During her brief remarks to the children and to community members, Lutsinger recalled how she was one of 24 teachers who were able to see the Stardust spacecraft launched and to be in Houston when the capsule was opened upon its return.

NASA launched Stardust on Feb. 9, 1999, and it traveled roughly 2.12 billion miles to a comet called Wild 2, which was nearly a five-year journey before coming within 149 miles of the comet where it collected particle samples before traveling 752 million miles back to earth where it dropped the capsule to Earth in 2006, Bloomberg reported at the time.

Lutsinger received a scale model of the spacecraft, which is now on display at the new exhibit next to an interactive area where children can build and test their own spacecraft.

Children can also play with wooden models of the Opportunity, Curiosity and Spirit — Mars rovers — on a table depicting the very Martian terrain those robots have explored.

Activities also include interactive exhibits for detecting magnetic waves using infrared camera technology, a dedicated reading area, a table-top board game featuring four scientific missions and even pint-sized NASA uniforms for children to play with.

The $90,000 exhibit is the collaborative creation of the Science Museum of Minnesota and the National Informal STEM Education Network and is based on actual NASA research.

Felipe Peña, executive director of the Children’s Museum of Brownsville, said the exhibit is permanent and belongs to the museum where it will be on display for a year.

After that, Peña said it may be lent out to other museums as exhibition space is limited.

However, if the Children’s Museum of Brownsville is able to finish finding funding for its expansion, the exhibit could be moved into the expansion area, but right now, the museum has only secured $100,000 in funding toward the total $500,000 needed to fund the expansion.

For more information about the Children’s Museum of Brownsville and all it has to offer, visit cmofbrownsville.org.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

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