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New planetarium show highlights race to return to the moon

  • The moon.

    The moon.

  • Back to the Moon For Good

    Back to the Moon For Good

  • The moon.
  • Back to the Moon For Good

It’s nice to get away, but the planning and dreaming are some of the best parts. Do you want to go north? South? The Grand Canyon? Paris? If some international teams have their way, the moon may be another option to add to the list.

Back to the Moon for Good is a 24-minute, full dome planetarium show that follows the adventures of would-be space explorers around the world as they compete for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The winner will be the first to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon in 40 years.

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center will be showing the film through March 30.

“The goal of the show is really to talk about exploration in general,” said Tiffany Nardino, education coordinator of programs for the center. “It’s (meant) to get that excitement back.”

The show starts by discussing the early years of the space program and the excitement of the space race of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Here audiences get a sense of the incredible amount of information scientists were able to gather about the moon’s origin, composition, structure and the accessibility of raw materials on its surface, just from landers and orbiters.

Eventually the film turns to present day and the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Said to be one the largest incentivized competitions to date, the purpose of the program is to “democratize space” as well as create the possibility of future exploration of the moon.

To win, a team must land a robotic spacecraft on the moon, navigate 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send video, images and data back to Earth.

“This global competition is designed to spark imagination and inspire a renewed commitment to space exploration, not by governments or countries – but by the citizens of the world,” according to Google officials.

The film shows all of the engineering and innovation going into projects across the globe as teams vie for the prize. The audience then experiences a successful launch and landing onscreen. Finally, the film leaves audiences with a peek at what a future on the moon might look like.

“When we’re looking for shows, we try to pick ones that people will enjoy,” Nardino said. “And this one has a lot of really good history about exploration of the moon as well, and really gets that excitement about the moon going. And the graphics are stunning.”

Back on planet Earth, Discovery Center officials are also encouraging kids to explore the world around them.

When the Earth Shakes, which will be on exhibit through May 18, was created by the Sciencenter in Ithaca, N.Y., and makes its East Coast debut at McAuliffe-Shepard.

“The exhibit talks about earthquakes and where they are and where they occur; plate tectonics and how they work and how they move around over time,” Nardino said. “And it also gets into a little of the engineering that people do when they build buildings. And what they keep in the back of their minds about what would happen to the building if an earthquake were to happen.”

Among the quake-inspired activities, kids can view the geologic history of earth, forming and re-forming itself via a video spin browser. They can also try to beat the clock completing a plate tectonic puzzle called Puzzled Earth.

“Just the other day we had a group up here and we had a kiddo who was working on the puzzle and trying to beat the clock,” she said. “And it was kind of funny, I think he did it on the third try. And then once he beat the clock, he wanted to beat his own personal time. He must have done it at least 15 times.” Kids can also see where earthquakes are happening around the globe in real time with a seismic monitor and can create their own vibrations with earthquake karaoke.

“On the monitor in front of you there’s the seismic wave for an earthquake in front of you, and you get to choose out of three earthquakes which one you want to try to mimic,” she said. “And the way you try to mimic it is you start jumping on this pad.”

They can even round out the day trying to design and build structures able to withstand earthquakes – or, in this case, a shake table.

“We find that people learn best by doing,” Nardino said. “So instead of there just being writing on the wall, we want things to be interactive. The kids are given a task and they want to accomplish that task. And they learn really cool things in the process of having fun.”

The Discovery Center is located at 2 Institute Drive in Concord. It’s open Thursday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and first and second Friday nights 6:30-9 p.m. General admission is free for basic and plus level members, children 2 and younger; $10 for adults; $7 for children (ages 3 to 12); $9 for seniors (age 62 and up); $9 for students (age 13 through college); and $7 for groups of 15 or more. Planetarium show tickets are free for plus level members and children 2 and younger. They are $5 per person per show and not included in the general admission price. Tickets are sold until 10 minutes prior to show time.

For information, call 271-7827 or visit starhop.com.

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