A Day or Night at the
Armstrong Air & Space Museum
In the dark vacuum of space, no one can hear a scream. At the Armstrong Air & Space Museum though, the stillness of night is often broken by the sounds of Scout troops camping at the museum. This program, offered since 2011, allows groups of Scouts a more in-depth museum experience and a chance to spend the night with spacecraft, a moon rock, and other extra-terrestrial artifacts.
Christopher Moynihan has seen the overnight program expand during his years working for the museum. Now Director of Programming and Education, he describes a typical overnight experience as starting soon after the museum has closed to the public. “The kids are always excited when they first get to the museum.” Scouts are let in and unpack before taking an extended tour of the museum, its artifacts, and the stories behind those artifacts. A moon rock, space suits, and the actual capsule that first took Neil Armstrong to space illustrate the Cold War, Space Race and, of course, the life of the first man to set foot on the moon. A short film in the museum’s unique domed theater further captures the excitement of that historic day in July 1969. Following the tour and film, Scouts can work on requirements for astronomy and engineering badges, complete challenge activities, or learn more about any particular aspect of space exploration.
New in 2016 is the Astronaut Training Program, where campers simulate an exploration of the moon’s surface. One group of Scouts are helped into heavy, replica Apollo spacesuits to look for geological evidence of life on the “lunar surface”, while other Scouts act as mission control monitoring the astronauts’ health and mission status. Astronauts must quickly find the rocks, evaluate their scientific potential, and bring the best sample back to their base. Mission control communicates with the astronauts, alerting them to remaining time in the mission, oxygen use, and lunar environment dangers. The Scouts have to work together to make smart decisions quickly. Will the mission find evidence of life? Will the oxygen run out or spacesuits fail? It is really up to mission control and the astronauts themselves as to how the mission ends.
When the evening activities are over, everyone is ready for snacks (no campfire inside!) and sleep. “Even though the kids are all wound up when they get here, by bedtime they are tired out,” says Moynihan. The background noise of exhibits and flight simulators in the Modern Space Gallery replace the more typical camp sounds of crickets and owls. This unique indoor camping area allows Scouts to sleep among the artifacts, resting in their sleeping bags next to a space shuttle tire, pressure suits, and astronaut food.
Morning brings a light breakfast and packing up. One final activity and yet another group of Scouts end their overnight visit to this unique campground, the Armstrong Air & Space Museum.
Programs and tours of the Armstrong Air & Space Museum may be scheduled through the Education Department at 419-738-8811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for more information about Scout Overnight programs.