NASA space station exhibit opens in Cape

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The shower was small. The toilet, which works much like a vacuum cleaner, seemed strange. Even the bed -- a sleeping bag attached to a wall -- seemed out of this world to area schoolchildren who toured the NASA "Space Station Imagination" exhibit Monday in Cape Girardeau.

"The sleeping bag was weird because you have to sleep standing up," said Jackson Middle School sixth-grader Kara Goodier, 11.

But astronaut Linda Godwin, a Southeast Missouri State University graduate who grew up in Oak Ridge, said the International Space Station -- which she visited during her 2001 spaceflight -- wasn't strange at all.

"I was impressed by how much it seemed like a home and a place to work at the same time," she said in a telephone interview from Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, Monday morning before the opening of the exhibit in Cape Girar-deau.

"It is very well-organized," she said of the space station, whose skyscraper-sized solar panels make it the most powerful vehicle ever in orbit.

Godwin said the exhibit in Cape Girardeau will give schoolchildren and the public "a glimpse of what life is like up there."

"I hope for some students that it will really inspire them to work for NASA some day," she said.

Jackson Middle School sixth-graders were the first group of students Monday to tour the two, 48-foot trailers -- linked in an L-shape to resemble two modules of the international space station.

The sixth-graders are among more than 4,000 Southeast Missouri schoolchildren who are scheduled to tour the exhibit this week in the Schnucks parking lot, 19 S. Kingshighway. The free exhibit is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday.

"I thought it was pretty neat," said Jackson Middle School sixth-grader Gavin Jaco, 12.

Classmate Bailey Abbott, 12, said the shower seemed small.

Seth Preusser, 12, said "maybe it would be cool" to be an astronaut. Preusser said the best part probably would be "floating" in the space station.

Godwin -- who went on four spaceflights, made two spacewalks and in all spent 38 days in space -- said the space station will remain the "only permanent habitation in space for a while" and provide a platform for researching the effects on humans of living in space.

Godwin, who now helps manage the astronaut program, said she has no plans to make another spaceflight. "We have a lot of folks waiting," she said of astronauts who have yet to journey into space.

Unlike the real space station, which is continually moving, the space station exhibit only travels to about 20 cities a year. Its visit to Cape Girardeau is sponsored by the NASA Educator Resource Center at Southeast Missouri State University and Schnucks.

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