Edit ModuleShow Tags

Open the Pod Bay Doors

San Diego Air & Space Museum debuts “The Science of ... Aliens”


Published:

In November 1969, a microbiologist at Atlanta’s U.S. Communicable Disease Center craned his neck to observe microbes split and reanimate in a petri dish. One of the most common bacterial trespassers of the human nose, mouth and throat, Streptococcus mitis, multiplied in the lens. Nothing remarkable about a routine culture.

However, the 477,710-mile round-trip the microorganisms had traveled to reach the laboratory was exceptional. What made them earthshaking were the 31 months they had survived on insulation foam inside a lunar lander’s camera, exposed to the vacuum of space, solar radiation, temperatures 73 degrees Fahrenheit above absolute zero and pressure about one-trillionth that of its home planet — with no food, water or energy source. Astronauts aboard Apollo 12 had no inkling that by recovering components of 1967’s Surveyor 3, remnants of a sneeze would experience a homecoming as the first earthlings to ever visit the Moon’s surface.

Further proof that science and the imagination are compatible, “The Science of… Aliens” recently opened as San Diego Air & Space Museum’s featured exhibit. Unveiled in February, curator Karen Lacy said the family-friendly exhibit will run at least one year. Renowned scientists in astronomy, biology, mathematics and other disciplines contributed hard science throughout the attraction. One of its chief elements is interactivity. “The idea would be that it would spawn discussion,” says Lacy. It’s divided into four zones: Alien Fiction, Alien Science, Alien Worlds and Alien Communication.

From Cold War-era creature features and props to pop-culture bugaboos like the “alien autopsy” videos and tales of abduction, Alien Fiction explores many alien-related subtexts, including those that have shaped the sci-fi genre. Display bubbles also hold dozens of otherworldly toys whose cuteness can’t help but disarm earlier generations of cyborgs and commies.

In Alien Science, extremophiles and other radical life forms that inhabit Earth provide clues to extraterrestrial life. Hardy bacteria survive dangerous radiation levels and thrive in the salty crust of bone-dry lake beds. Within our own solar system, methane clouds in the dense atmosphere of the Saturnian moon, Titan, and an enormous ocean beneath the frozen surface of Europa, a Jovian moon, are key areas of curiosity.

Two fictitious landscapes, Blue Moon and Aurelia, are the crown jewels of Alien Worlds. Scientists extrapolated imaginary ecosystems that are projected onto interactive sled-shaped panels. Visitors’ hands activate heat-sensitive pads that widen into informational squares. Life-sustaining worlds orbit red dwarfs and gas giants. These resplendent landscapes amaze.

Alien Communication deals with potential means of contact with alien species. Despite some dry science, this rotunda invites patrons to send messages to aliens and contemplate the inherent challenges of communication across interstellar channels.

Tickets for “The Science of… Aliens” are $9–$24.75. Children under 2 are free. Signs are in English and Spanish. 2001 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park, 619-234-8291, sandiegoairandspace.org

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

The Great Neighborhood Challenge

Win $5,000 for your neighborhood project!

From the Publisher

Filner Redux?

7 Rad Hotel Pools in SoCal

Who needs the beach? If you love the swanky hotel pool scene—or just a nice outdoor setting sans sand—get in on this action.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. The Ultimate San Diego Bucket List
    Whether you’re a native or a newcomer, we’ve got 50 things every San Diegan must do. Now, get started!
  2. 26 BIG Ideas
    San Diego's most innovative thinkers tell us how they would make America’s Finest City a whole lot finer.
  3. FIRST LOOK: Kindred
    Death metal vegan has arrived in San Diego. From the creative minds behind Craft & Commerce, Noble Experiment, LOVELIKEBEER—plus one of the country's top vegan chefs—comes Kindred. It's in South Park. It's gonna blow some minds.
  4. San Diego's Best New Restaurants 2015
    From upscale modern Mexican to a hole-in-the-wall Thai spot, food critic Troy Johnson reveals his 10 favorite new eateries of 2015
  5. The Ballast Point Effect
    The Great Craft Sale is on. Constellation Brands recently bought Ballast Point for $1 billion. Heineken bought Lagunitas. MillerCoors bought Saint Archer. What does that mean for the craft beer industry? Experts weigh in.
  6. Architecture: Modern Wonder
    Inside Rob Quigley and Kathleen Hallahan’s award-winning East Village domicile
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

More Than 1,300 Prizes are Ready to be Given Away

What are you waiting for? Buy your raffle ticket now

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

“Will You Marry Me”?

Sharon Jenks, CEO of 6 Degrees, on building business relationships

More Than 1,300 Prizes are Ready to be Given Away

What are you waiting for? Buy your raffle ticket now

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags