Disclosure: The Cosmosphere sponsored this post; however, all opinions are my own. Some 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 most extensive combined collection of U.S. and Soviet-era space artifacts worldwide. People travel from across the globe to enjoy Kansas’ only Smithsonian-affiliated museum and science education center.
When you walk into the Hall of Space Museum, you are greeted by an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, which is only the beginning of an awe-inspiring visit. Other on-site artifacts include the Gemini X, authentic Apollo 13 Odyssey, V-1 and V-2 rockets, and Sputnik. Walking 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!), a planetarium, and CosmoKids. The Cosmosphere emphasizes STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education. The CosmoKids interactive play area includes hands-on activities from air rockets to a gravity well for young explorers.
The space museum is fun for the entire family, and young visitors can register for Cosmosphere Camps. The educational opportunities teach kids about problem-solving and exploration, from building a better lander to flying a drone to battling programmed robots.
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. 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 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 Hall of Space Museum tour and explained the Space Race’s historical significance. The experience during Lunar Base is one that 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 and use their communication skills.
I tried 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 could 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, it was entertaining and reinforced a lesson about creating a design that can tolerate challenges.
MISSION: ASTRO LAB (Entering 9-10 Grade, 6 Days, 5 Overnights)
Astro Recruits aim to establish life on another planet, but first, they must learn how to live in outer space successfully. 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 we 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 experimented 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 can 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 allows visitors of all ages 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 life 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 never forget.