Disclosure: The Cosmosphere sponsored this post, however, all opinions are my own. Some of the photographs were provided by the Cosmosphere and others were taken by me.
At the Cosmosphere (1100 N. Plum, Hutchinson, Kansas) you can experience the story of the Space Race through the largest combined collection of U.S. and Soviet-era space artifacts in the world. People travel from across the globe to enjoy Kansas’ only Smithsonian-affiliated museum and science education center.
From the moment you walk into the Hall of Space Museum, you are greeted by a SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and that is only the beginning of what is an awe-inspiring visit. Other on-site artifacts include the Gemini X, authentic Apollo 13 Odyssey, V-1 and V-2 rockets, and Sputnik. As you walk through the museum, you can expect to see an actual Apollo 11 Moon rock, astronaut suits, space equipment, and a scaled lunar module.
Other attractions include a 4k digital, two-story dome theater, Dr. Goddard’s Lab (rocket science brought to life!), planetarium, and CosmoKids. The Cosmosphere puts an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education. The CosmoKids interactive play area includes hand-on activities from air rockets to a gravity well for young explorers to enjoy.
Not only is the space museum fun for the entire family, but young visitors can register for Cosmosphere Camps. From building a better lander to flying a drone to battling programmed robots, the educational opportunities teach kids about problem-solving and exploration.
I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and learn more about Cosmosphere Camps, an opportunity for youth grades 4-10 to learn more about the journey to space and exploration. It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget! I highly recommend that parents register their children for one of the camps. All of the sessions let kids enjoy the thrill of space while having fun at camp! Get a glimpse of what kids can expect here.
LUNAR BASE (Entering 4-5 Grade, 4 Half Days)
Campers discover the exciting challenges of living on the Moon as they work with their team to create a lunar colony and experience science hands-on. From learning how to make ice cream from liquid nitrogen to studying the phases of the Moon using Oreo cookies, Lunar Base camp opens kids’ minds to the journey of space travel.
During my experience at Lunar Base, I learned how to build a better lander. I was provided a set of supplies to handcraft a moon lander that (hopefully!) would withstand a two-story drop without harming the astronauts (aka marshmallows). Only one astronaut survived, so in retrospect, my lander should have been designed with better shock absorbers, a lesson in engineering!
Following the exercise, a STEM educator took me on a tour of the Hall of Space Museum and explained the historical significance of the Space Race. The experience during Lunar Base is one that I think all kids would enjoy in this age group. Learn more and register here.
MERITS OF SPACE III (Entering 8-10 Grade, 6 Days, 5 Overnights)
During this camp, scouts work to complete a mission to observe the Moon from lunar orbit. They launch high-powered rockets, pilot drones, program robots using code, and produce a press conference to report their findings from the mission. Campers can expect to work to overcome obstacles while working with technology as well as use their communications skills.
I tried my hand at flying a drone for the first time while experiencing the benefits of Merits of Space III. Not only did I have to use hand-eye coordination to master flight, but it taught me to listen to others for instructions while navigating a drone obstacle course. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I was able to skillfully fly the drone through hoops without crashing it. Mission accomplished!
Later, I competed against a Cosmosphere employee in a Battlebots challenge! Using programmed robots made of Legos, we watched as one robot eventually pushed the other one outside of a boundary line. Although my robot’s design couldn’t withstand the strength of my competitor’s, it was extremely fun and it reinforced a lesson about how to create a design that can tolerate challenges.
MISSION: ASTRO LAB (Entering 9-10 Grade, 6 Days, 5 Overnights)
Astro Recruits have a goal to establish life on another planet, but first, they must learn how to successfully live in outer space. Working as a team, they send crews to the Astro Lab, work with companies to make space accessible, and ensure working conditions in space. Astronauts must train for weightless, so Astro Recruits are introduced to SCUBA and complete high altitude balloon experiments to prepare for their mission. Mission: Astro Lab is the ultimate camp experience and it gives youth a chance to work on STEM and career skills at the same time.
While at the Cosmosphere, I sat in the Astralis spacecraft simulator while communicating with Mission Control to perform a launch. 3-2-1…go! As waited for prompts from Mission Control and flipped switches, the virtual sky changed colors and the stars appeared. Afterward, I climbed the ladder into the HAB where I performed an experiment using neon light to study the lifecycle of a star.
I can’t emphasize enough how rewarding this experience is for participants. Campers who sign up for Mission: Astro Lab have the opportunity to run experiments and test their skill set, unlike anything they’ve done before. They also get to use virtual reality technology, a digital 3D mapping system, conduct medical flight tests like astronauts, and build communication and problem-solving skills on the Cosmosphere’s Low Ropes Course. Discover the possibilities and register here.
THE ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE
Aside from day camp educational opportunities, the Cosmosphere provides visitors of all ages the chance to virtually travel through time and space. The Hall of Space Museum is divided into several galleries giving museum-goers a chance to learn more about the history of space travel on a self-guided tour.
The German Gallery details how Hitler’s Germany laid the groundwork for space travel. You can view V-1 and V2 rockets in the WWII exhibit. Visitors can also learn about the impact of high altitude and high-speed flight while walking around the X-Plane Gallery. Inside the Cold War Gallery, onlookers can discover how the U.S. and Soviet space programs competed to make significant strides during the Space Race.
The Cosmosphere makes learning about American heroes and Soviet secrets fascinating inside the Mollett Early Spaceflight Gallery. The actual Apollo 13 command module, Odyssey, is a major highlight of the Apollo Gallery. Visitors can also imagine what life was like as an astronaut as they gaze upon approximately 100 artifacts in The Astronaut Experience.
Ready for takeoff to the Cosmosphere? The best way to get the most out of your visit is to opt for the All-Access Mission Pass, which includes access to the Hall of Space Museum, CosmoKids, a movie viewing inside the Carey Digital Dome Theater, a show in the Justice Planetarium, a Dr. Goddard’s Lab experience, and one ride on the naviGATOR Simulator. Launch the ultimate museum experience here!
Do you have questions about the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas, or the youth camps? Add it below and I’ll answer it for you! Visiting the Cosmosphere and participating in the interactive activities are out-of-this-world experiences you’ll always remember.