Monday, January 16, 2012

Creepy Space Robots

The space robot on tv and on display

Today I found that space robots are creepy, especially when they move all herky-jerky with old music playing in the background. And they're actually not space robots, they're space suit androids used to create astronaut suits, since testing the suits out for pressure would be dangerous on actual humans.

The robots were the boys' favorite part of today's trip to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. They didn't find the robots creepy like I did. All Northern Virginia parents should take advantage of this place. It rocks. It's a huge airplane hangar by Dulles Airport, with hundreds of planes and helicopters and missiles and engines and the amazing space shuttle Enterprise. I won't even try to pretend I know the different names and time periods and models of the planes, because not a lot of placard-reading goes on while the little ones dash around. But it's a sweet place to take kids, especially in the winter when there are few visitors (especially on weekdays), and it's spacious so the kids can run around if they're so inclined. We went today so Gammy could do with us, and since it's a holiday, the place was busier than normal, but still very manageable. Since it's a Smithsonian museum, admission is free, but they do charge $15 for parking unless you go at 4pm, after which it is free (The place closes at 5pm). So, pack a couple moms and kids in the minivan on a weekday morning and get your money’s worth.
The placards that I hardly have time to read

There are plenty of interactive things to do also. There are flight simulators and an IMax theater and an observation tower where you can see and do what air traffic controllers do. They have frequent educational programs, including a once-a-month Super Science Saturday where there are a bunch of hands-on activities stationed around the museum for kids of all ages to participate in. One time the boys got to try on astronaut gloves and boots (okay, they were actually afraid of the boots) and I saw a demonstration with sponges and a plastic spinal column that illustrated what happens to spines in space (which sounds painful). They have story times and flight suits that kids can try on. Super cool stuff, and events that the boys will now appreciate more and more as they get older. The past few times we've gone the boys have been fantastic and they've remembered a lot about it, too. The last time they got to go in the cockpit of a little Cessna plane and push buttons and lights and they loved it. They post discovery stations around the museum on a regular basis.

My boys usually last for two hours in the museum and then we're ready to either eat a snack and head home, or take the McDonald's chicken nugget plunge at the gigantic McDonald's cafe inside. It is such a big dining area that bringing your own lunch would be easy to do without feeling rude, though I've never done it. The workers probably wouldn't even notice.

At the nose of the space shuttle
Last night after we told the boys we were going to the museum in the morning, they said they wanted to do a craft! (It was Clark's idea! MAJOR VICTORY!) So I found astronaut coloring sheets online and the boys colored them, I roughly cut them out, and we pasted pictures of their heads in the helmets. Then they used some glitter glue to make stars on a black construction paper where we pasted the scenes. Their interest in astronauts and space has been gaining momentum ever since they got a Little People space shuttle for a couple stomp rockets, a cool astronaut book, and astronaut ice cream for Christmas from some awesome aunts and uncles. We've watched a lot of YouTube space shuttle launches and moonwalks and Brian has been showing them GoogleEarth so they've learned a little about space and what satellites do. So this trip was probably the most meaningful one they've had. Cal also showed an interest in all the engines, which have never captured his attention before.

So, in summary, NOVA parents, you should take your kids here. You should pack up your astronaut ice cream and your kids' friends and show them everything, but especially the space robot and the video of the dancing space robot that are over by the space shuttle, and come back on a day they have all the science-y hands-on stations (next one is February 11th). 5-4-3-2-1- I'm out.

Astronaut Calvin (in Astronaut Buzz Lightyear shirt)

The space shuttle from a catwalk

I guess this plane is making Cal nervous?

astronaut crafts on the fridge!


  1. Excellent! I hope Nick grows out of being freaked out by Hope's Lope soon, so we can resume our Udvar Hazy adventures.
    I love the astronaut coloring page. Can you send me the link?

  2. Yeah, we thought about him today when we saw Hope's Lope...I linked the space coloring pages above, but here is the specific page we used.


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