The crew of STS-135, NASA’s final space shuttle mission, and Sesame Street’s Elmo welcomed visitors to “What’s Your Favorite Space?” in New York City. An estimated 4,000 people attended this free, public event presented by NASA and Eventi on Wednesday, Aug. 17.

Elmo and the Atlantis crew were meeting for the first time, although Elmo witnessed their launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on July 8. Elmo joined them on the stage with giggles, wit and questions for the crew. He asked how they slept, how long it took them to train, even how they brushed their teeth.

Elmo drives the Exploration Uplink Rover remotely from New York. Credit: NLSI

“Are you sad that the shuttle program has ended?” Elmo asked.

“It is sad. The space shuttle may be gone, but its mission is complete,” said Cmdr. Chris Ferguson. “Sometimes you have to stop building rockets for today to build one for tomorrow.”

Though NASA closed a chapter in America’s history in space with the end of the shuttle program, the agency is already working on the next installment of the story of exploration. That was part of the story Wednesday in New York.

The outdoor plaza was transformed into a miniature space outpost filled with displays including an inflatable Mars Rover, demonstrations, interactive exhibits, video segments, children’s activities and more. Visitors tried on space gloves and attempted tooling tasks that astronauts do in space. Many children got to remotely drive the Exploration Uplink rover across a lunar terrain right from the plaza.

NLSI Deputy EPO lead Joe Minafra poses with Elmo. Credit: NLSI

Some discovered their “favorite space” in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) exhibit. There, the engineering challenge involved picking up a potato and dressing it with bubble wrap, rubber bands, aluminum foil and strings to secure it from damage. A tool was dropped onto the potato inside a bucket, and an unharmed potato earned them a cape, a bag and a solar-powered safety light.

Students from the City College of New York ASME student chapter hosted a “balloon blaster” challenge. Children built airplanes, rovers and shuttles from Legos or had their photos taken in “space” as a souvenir. In the “Journey to Tomorrow” trailer, an interactive environment was packed with hands-on activities and digital learning stations. In Moonbase Alpha, visitors assumed the role of an astronaut working to further human expansion. All of these activities made for an event that will be long remembered by all!

Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff
Source: NLSI

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