Space Attractions Down To Earth In California

Space Shuttle Endeavor
arrives at the California Science Center soon and space exploration is on the minds of local and visiting space travel fans. Visitors to Los Angeles can see a variety of historical and futuristic space exhibitions and attractions within driving distance from LAX. California residents and visitors alike are rediscovering the state’s rich space-oriented past along with current places of interest that are helping charge the U.S. space program of tomorrow.

Let’s take a look at what California has to offer travelers interested in space-themed points of interest:

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) (Pasadena) has played a major role in U.S. space exploration achievements and offers free two-hour tours of its Pasadena facility. Right now, NASA’s Mars Curiosity team is performing robotic arm tests in preparation for the rover to touch and examine its first Martian rock.

Griffith Observatory
(Los Angeles) reopened in 2007 after a four-year, $93 million renovation. The 9,000-pound Zeiss Telescope can accommodate as many as 600 viewings per night, giving visitors an unmatched view of the moon and stars on a clear Los Angeles night.

Columbia Memorial Space Center (Downey) is the national memorial for the Space Shuttle Columbia’s seven crew members, lost in 2003 but also a hands-on learning center, dedicated to bringing the wonder and excitement of space science to children of all ages.

Discovery Museum Science & Space Center (Sacramento) is home to the Challenger Learning Center and houses an animal discovery room, nature trails, wildlife pond and Sacramento’s only public planetarium. Weekend activities include animal presentations for all ages, make and take crafts, and planetarium shows.Kidspace Children’s Museum (Pasadena) has more than two-dozen interactive exhibits designed for children from ages 1 to 10. At the Museum’s Gavin Physics Forest, kids can learn first hand about what it takes to get an object into space by creating mini-bottle rockets and study gravitational acceleration with the Ball Bounce exhibit.

Space Mountain– No list of California space attractions would be complete without Disneyland’s Space Mountain, the high-speed thrill ride that has hurtled visitors into the final fun frontier since 1977.

Flickr photo by Lance Cheung

Searching for Hollywood’s Real Stars

In Los Angeles, the stars are everywhere. They line the pavement on the famous Hollywood Blvd. strip, they sit disguised in overly cramped cafes on Melrose and you can even find them in the eyes of some young hopeful, aspiring actor or actress looking for their chance to appear on the silver screen. However, the hardest place to find stars is straight up in the night sky where you’d expect to see billions. Sigh. Sad, sad, sad… With all the light pollution from the city itself, real star gazing can be a tough hobby to take up in the City of Angels without the use of tools, but there is good news my true star gazing pals.

On Friday, November 3rd, a newly restored Griffith Observatory is set to reopen to the public after four-years of work and expansion. The observatory has long given people the opportunity to view the real stars resting over and directly above the city as well stars over places unimaginable. CNN dishes the details on what Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory now has to offer the public. The Zeiss telescope in the Eastern dome and the solar telescope in the Western dome both remain, but should the night become chilly or you just need to step inside the observatory building, you’ll notice the big, new changes. The building which expanded 40,000 square feet is the house of plenty new attractions which include scale models of planets, exhibits on tides, optics and electricity, and other natural phenomena according to CNN.

It is said that some 7,000 people are expected to swing by the observatory when it reopens next month which is quite heartwarming. It helps me think people are trading in those silly Star Maps (guides for stalking down famous folk) for the real deal.