You realise you’re in for a treat as you approach the National Space Centre building. An odd hi-tech shape with a rocket tower reaching 130 feet (42m) into the sky.
The LAS space trek to a far distant part of the galaxy called Leicester National Space Centre took place on 20th April 2002.
It was early Saturday morning when the 49 seater coach, that had seen too many such missions, left the centre of the Universe otherwise known as City Centre, Liverpool, right on time to make it’s only scheduled payload pickup at the outpost known as Pex Hill. The remaining 18 LAS members met the coach at the gates to the Pex Hill road making up a full crew compliment of 31 plus the pilot – err coach driver – sorry!
Timed passed very quickly as members discussed telescope making, astronomical observing, astro-photogaphy, trips to NASA(!) and Society matters. Astronomy Now and Sky & Telescope magazines were very evident throughout the coach and I noticed one member taking the opportunity to revise his GCSE Spanish. What a hi-brow lot we are!
The quaint 15 year old Volvo had a certain harmony as it venomously ate up the 124 miles to Leicester arriving exactly as planned at 10:30am.
Chris Banks and I completed the admin at the NSC check-in desk. Chris dished out the tickets and I explained the logistics of the centre, return time, space theatre booking (1:20pm) and the various lunch options which varied from the cafe at the foot of the Blue Streak and Thor rockets to enjoying the warm weather outside.
We split into groups, wandering around the centre, working our way through all the amazing exhibits. What a treat, a whole day with colleagues, to indulge in our favourite pastime. So what of the exhibits themselves, well you will have to visit the centre yourself to fully enjoy them but here’s a brief rundown of what’s there;
- Outside the entrance, the 2 rockets can be seen through the hi-tech tower material. As a point of interest the Blue Streak is actually on loan from Liverpool Museum.
- Once in the entrance to the centre an old Soviet Soyus space capsule hangs above you. This was rescued from a courtyard in Georgia in 2000.
- The centre is split into several theme areas
- Into space, which displays and explains the rigours of space travel from muscle wastage to the crammed conditions of a tin can in space. Did you see if you would be space sick? According to the NSC, there has been something in space made in Leicester since the mid-60’s!
- Exploring the Universe, took you through black holes, the creation of the universe, birth and death of stars and even making your own alien.
- The planets gave you a complete walk through our Solar System with moon rock and a working Martian rover (a model I believe as no one has been and brought the real one back yet!). Mixed with huge models of the planets, moon systems and asteroids.
- Orbiting Earth demonstrated what our artificial satellites do for us. From the GPS system that hi-tech telescopes use to those satellites giving us environmental monitoring and communications. Did you try the weather forecasting studio?
- Space Now had information about current & future space missions and models of probes such as Huygens. The big screen viewer showed various ‘space now’ images and short films. While we were there a demonstration on what a comet is made of and how it reacts with space proved very popular. Space Now was also the home to the NEO information centre. This was opened on the day. Info can be found at www.nearearthobjects.co.uk
- The Space Theatre planetarium held 160 people in suspense as we were whisked off to distant parts of the universe without leaving our reclined seats, all narrated by Richard Attenborough. The vehicle that took you around the universe in 25 minutes was the ‘Spitz ElectricSky video projection system’ – that plus other projectors delivered the whole experience. Many of the shows are created at the NSC.
- Last but not least is the rocket tower whereby viewing the rockets and other space vehicles can be observed and examined on the many different levels up to the very top of the rockets.
- When the exhibits have been completed, there is always the Cargo Bay shop with lots of goodies to spend your money on.
Finally, the day finished at 3:30pm when we departed on time to head back to Merseyside. A somewhat quieter return journey as our space heroes young and old rested after a very long day touring the Cosmos. The coach dropped off at Pex Hill at 5:45pm then made it’s final leg of the trip back to Liverpool city centre.