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'Lose yourself in the awe of the universe': Educators hope talk of aliens leads to renewed interest in space

"Space Oydssey" exhibit
Posted at 6:02 AM, Jul 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-28 08:02:12-04

DENVER — Three U.S. military veterans have spawned a national conversation around space and the existence of aliens after testifying before Congress Wednesday and alleging decades of secret investigations into recovered UFOs and “non-human biologics.”

The Pentagon has denied any sort of cover-up of investigations of this sort, and said no discoveries of “verifiable information to substantiate” the claims have been made.

Regardless of the veracity of the claims, educators of space hope it can lead to renewed interest from the public.

Jose Zuniga, an educator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and “space nerd” himself, said he gets questions regularly — from kids and parents alike — about space travel and if aliens have “come to see us.”

“The thing is, these seem like silly questions, but they’re actually rooted in a very core idea about science and learning,” Zuniga said. “What is out there? How can we get there? How can we explore?”

The "Space Odyssey" exhibit at the museum is already one of its most popular and was packed with people Thursday. Moments in pop cultures — from music to movies to, yes, congressional hearings — can juice interest even more.

Daniel Ville, the museum’s manager for community outreach, doesn’t care why people become interested in space and science. He just cares that that curiosity leads to learning. He cited a survey conducted by the museum that found 70 percent of those who take an interest in science fiction subsequently dove deeper into nonfiction science topics.

“We know that when people are engaging with this kind of science fiction, they will get drawn in to be interested with real science,” Ville said. “So, we celebrate it all of course.”

Both Zuniga and Ville hope more of their neighbors in Colorado come to visit them at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, of course; but they also hope we all take more time to just look up and out at the world and universe around us.

“That’s something that unites us all, is looking up into the night sky and saying ‘wow,’ and wondering what’s out there,” Zuniga said. “And I think that’s the thing about 'Space Odyssey' and space — you can really lose yourself in the awe of the universe.”

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is open every day of the year, with the exception of Christmas. You can learn more about the museum’s hours and its exhibits on its website.