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Back to the Moon for Good: My lunch with Buzz Lightyear and a few lunar hopefuls

September 12, 2014

Filed under Back to the Moon for Good, Planetarium

 

Back To The Moon For Good begins with a tour through the history of lunar exploration, tracing back to the 1960s and 1970s.  Later, the show highlights the teams competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE.

Back To The Moon For Good begins with a tour through the history of lunar exploration, tracing back to the 1960s and 1970s. Later, the show highlights the teams competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE.

Every other month or so, my co-workers and I spend our lunch hour under the stars inside the planetarium at The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

For 25 minutes, this self-professed sci-fi geek gets to shift his gaze toward the far reaches of space as images of the moon and lunar landers glide across a dome-shaped ceiling, all in high-definition.

On Tuesday, museum educator Linda Powell was nice enough to open the door to the planetarium a few minutes after a small crowd of state workers had already been seated.

Yes. I was late. But, I had a good excuse and if you follow along with Pennsylvania Treasures, you know what I’m talking about.

After a brief introduction given by Powell, the lights inside the planetarium dimmed and whispered chats came to an abrupt halt. It was time to enjoy “Back to the Moon for Good.”

I smiled as Tim Allen’s voice came through the speakers.

Despite my age, it wasn’t lost on me that “Buzz Lightyear” was narrating a 25-minute short on space exploration. To be honest, Allen sounded more like he did when he starred in “Home Improvement”than a Disney character.

The show, “Back to the Moon for Good,” opens with an animated overview of the space race of the 1960s and early 1970s. We learn that the equipment left by Apollo 17, the last Apollo lunar landing in 1972, still sits on the surface of the moon.

“It takes a look at the history of the space program and where it came from,” said Powell, director of the planetarium. “It looks at what the moon offers us, especially in terms of going back.”

Finished with the history lesson, the show switches gears and powers toward the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a global competition that inspires engineers and entrepreneurs to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration.

With $30 million on the line, privately-funded teams compete to place a robot on the moon’s surface, explore 500 meters and transmit images and video back to Earth.

Two teams in the running for the Google Lunar XPRIZE include the Penn State Lunar Lion Team and Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic .

During your next visit to the museum, carve out about 30 minutes and stop by the planetarium. You’ll enjoy the show, even if you aren’t a sci-fi geek.

“Back to the Moon for Good “is now showing at the planetarium.

 

-Sean Adkins, information specialist with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission