Destination Station brings the wonders of space station home

While an unobtrusive laboratory whirls above our heads 365 days a year, a more intensive campaign is happening on Earthen ground to acquaint the general public with the wonders of the International Space Station (ISS). The effort started as an outreach campaign with a traveling exhibit called Destination Station, and has evolved to include an interactive exhibit in our own backyard at Space Center Houston (SCH).

Peggy Carruthers, the ISS lead for outreach, explained that until recently, station was not highlighted at Johnson Space Center’s official visitor center.

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The Destination Station exhibit at Space Center Houston gives visitors a taste of the science, research and living space aboard the space station.
“With the retirement of the shuttle, Space Center Houston wanted to incorporate an exhibit featuring space station,” Carruthers said. “We started with updating the (large, overhanging ISS) model, and from there the exhibit evolved into the current display.”

The results of the overhaul, which can be seen by visitors right now, rivals collaboration efforts of the past.

“In my 14 years here at Space Center Houston, the new ISS exhibit is the result of the most profound and valuable partnership we have had with JSC’s External Relations Office and the ISS Program Office,” said SCH Operations Manager Anson Brantley. “This world-class exhibit is now available to more than 700,000 people annually here at Space Center Houston, and will help us exceed our goal in educating the public about NASA’s human spaceflight program.”

The new space station exhibit is multifaceted and will appeal to a wide range of people. For instance, there’s a display of personal items donated by astronauts who have flown aboard the microgravity research platform. “We wanted to display a personal aspect to the space station,” Carruthers said. “The public knows the astronauts live and work in space, but what they might not think about is the everyday human side. During free time, the astronauts might engage in board games, playing instruments or photography.”

There are many interactive components that allow visitors to be immersed in the space station experience as well.

“One of the highlights of the new ISS exhibit is the new ‘Living in Space’ presentation, where a mission briefing officer gives the public a live demonstration on how the astronauts live, work and conduct science aboard ISS,” Brantley said. “This presentation, which is a huge draw to the public, generates excitement and additional interest about the ISS Program. Another great accomplishment from this is the complete update to the ‘Human Destiny’ high-definition theater film, which now includes the construction of the ISS from start to finish and the use of the Space Shuttle Program to enable NASA to achieve this magnificent accomplishment.”

Graphic panels and a Robonaut replica tell part of the larger space station story.
Graphic panels and a Robonaut replica tell part of the larger space station story.
Other compelling features include Robonaut, huge panels and graphics denoting science and research, micrometeoroid impact items and mock-ups of sleeping compartments and a space toilet. The exhibit, most importantly, highlights station’s genesis from construction to, now, full utilization with six-person crews.

“One of the most important aspects of space station is its capability as a research laboratory,” Carruthers said. “The research performed aboard ISS benefits individuals here on Earth, and the SCH exhibit highlights some of them.”

Even if you see the exhibit today, elements of it may evolve as things change aboard station. One major attraction soon to come is the cupola module, which in space operates as a pressurized observation and work area that accommodates command and control workstations and affords astronauts unparalleled, 360-degree views of the Earth.

“People are going to be able to go up and look through the cupola, and we’re going to outfit it like you would see it on station, with a camera and laptop, so people can get a feel of what it would look like,” said JSC Exhibits Manager Elizabeth LeBlanc. “We’re in the design/concept phase right now, but it will probably be coming to fruition in July.”

Through an innovative partnership between the ISS Program, JSC External Relations Office and Space Center Houston, this collaboration succeeded despite the integrated team never having done anything quite like it—and to that scope—before. Best of all, the benefits won’t be limited to guests looking to be entertained during the sweltering summer months.

Catherine Ragin Williams
Johnson Space Center, Houston


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Updated: 07/03/2013