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Museum explores outer space

Exhibit delves into 'hostile environment'

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Thanks to a brand-new exhibit at the Manitoba Museum, ordinary citizens will have an opportunity to go where only eight Canadians have gone before -- outer space.

Beginning Thursday, the museum will be home to Living in Space, an interactive exhibit produced by the Canadian Space Agency.

Scott Young, manager of science communications at the museum, said the purpose of the multimedia exhibit is for people to explore the daily challenges of living in a world of weightlessness.

"Space is a very hostile environment," he said. "Astronauts have to be able to do a lot of things just to exist there, never mind the scientific research. Everything from going to the bathroom to eating to exercising to communicating with family can be extremely challenging."

The biggest challenge of all, Young said, may be passing the time.

"They need to constantly find ways to stay amused and remain sane for all that time. They usually spend a lot of their time looking out the window at Earth below them."

Highlights of the exhibit include artifacts contributed by Canadian astronauts, including Julie Payette's flight suit, Robert Thirsk's sleeping bag and an electronic touch table that replicates the challenges of eating in space.

It also features a fully operational simulator of the Canadarm2, Canada's invaluable contribution to the International Space Station.

"It's extremely realistic," Young said of the simulator. "It's the same one they had at the Canadian Space Agency and it shows what it's like to actually control it."

In addition to being a valuable educational experience, Young said Living in Space gives Canadians an opportunity to learn about their country's significant role in the space community.

"Our country is a leader in space exploration and being an astronaut is a viable career choice here," he said. "Kids in Canada can aspire to be astronauts and actually achieve it."

The timing for the launch of the exhibit couldn't be better; Chris Hadfield, who will serve as Canada's first International Space Station commander, is set to blast off for a six-month orbital expedition today.

The exhibit will run at the Manitoba Museum until February 2014.

ryan.bowman@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2012 A12

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