|Space Walk at National Space Centre|
Exhibitions in the Rocket Tower chimed perfectly with the current poem sequence I'm writing about rocket designers Werner von Braun and SergeiKorolev. There were even parts of von Braun's V-2rocket on display. The complex and often dark context of the Space Race is vividly outlined in a time-line on the walls but you can sit in a replica 60's living-room to listen to the historic lunar landing of 1969. I was particularly delighted to see the story also featured first edition copies of Jules Verne’s' 'Round the Moon' and HG Wells' 'War of the Worlds' - sci-fi classics that inspired a generation of rocket scientists. Fiction often anticipated and suggested features of design that later appeared in real rockets like the three or four stage structure.
In the same way, the Space Centre is very canny about engaging the imaginations of today's children by using the cultural icons of our own time. My husband was quite giddy at being greeted by costumed versions of Star Wars troopers, Dr. Who, Batman, Stargate SG-7 and numerous apes in overalls. Indeed burly blokes of a certain age were queuing alongside toddlers to be photographed with the Dark Lord - 'Cheers Darth!' Hats (and helmets) off to the cast of Movie Mania - the Space Centre's themed weekend, who kept hundreds entertained all day. In the Booster Café, children jostled Planet of the Apes extras to jump up and down under the rocket boosters that blasted off every 5 minutes. Genius!
I particularly admire how this museum keeps tots and space geeks simultaneously enthralled. In the Planetarium, CGI effects dazzled all while serious science about the CERN Particle Collider or astronomical imaging of the Big Bang were deftly explained. In front of a Martian landscape used for testing real probes, a huge interactive 'table' allows you to access up-to-date NASA podcasts on Curiosity’s current exploration of the Red Planet. This centre is at once a multi-layered theme park and a conduit direct into cutting-edge science.
Personally, I was totally space-hyped by the time I was dragged away. But thanks to a free Annual Pass, I'll be back soon. I don't remember the Space Centre being this cheap - only £13 for an adult's day ticket. And if you book in advance and tick the Gift Aid box, you get upgraded automatically to an Annual Pass. As I start work on my rocket poems, hanging out by the Soyuz spacecraft, the Thor-Able rocket and Vostok simulator will be invaluable. Meanwhile Gagarin is still orbiting patiently in the time-warp that is Level 2. 'Poyekhali Yuri!'