COLORADO SPRINGS — In our exclusive new series Adventures with Alan, we'll travel across Southern Colorado week-by-week to show you thrills and chills, hidden gems and well-known spots.
This week, our adventures take us to the Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs.
For this Space Camp graduate, it's the chance to explore the history of space travel and recent advancements in the industry.
Science on a Sphere
The first exhibit we see, Science on a Sphere, is a large spherical projection system that features hundreds of data sets from NASA and NOAA.
It offers us incredible views of the Solar System and beyond.
Museum Curator Rachel English demonstrates some highlights that include global satellite imagery, bird migration patterns and real-time wildfire data.
It's out of this world!
Mission to Mars
Next, it's time to gear up for our visit to the Mars Robotics Laboratory.
To add to the excitement, English and Executive Director Kevin Orangers give me a space suit to try on for my upcoming mission.
It's a perfect fit! I'm now ready to explore the red planet.
The fourth planet from the sun, Mars is roughly one-third the size of Earth, and is home to some of the largest geographic features in our Solar System.
"So, we have the tallest volcano, Olympus Mons. We have the deepest canyon, the Valles Marineris," said English.
The Discovery Center's Mars Robotics Laboratory is one of the largest labs of its kind in the world.
"So our goal with the Mars Robotics Lab is to give everyone an experience of what it's like to control a robot on another planet," said English.
Now for the fun part, English instructs me on my mission. It's here that we get to drive a robotic rover in the Mars lab to the Curiosity rover to do some repairs.
After a series of commands, I hit play on the iPad, and my mini rover takes off.
On my first attempt, I drive it into a rock. It takes some getting used to, but after my fifth command, we finally make it!
Englihs says that actual rover missions are super important to exploring Mars.
The rovers are used to collect rock samples, study surface matter, and search for signs of water and life.
Perseverance is the newest rover, and it's already doing incredible things.
"Perseverance carried a drone with it, Ingenuity, and Ingenuity has now done three successful flights on the surface of Mars," said English.
This English tells us is a big accomplishment in that we now know that flight is possible in a thin martian atmosphere.
Tasting Astronaut Ice Cream
After our trip to Mars, I've worked up an appetite. English let's me taste some astronaut ice cream, and it's not so bad!
English tells us that in recent decades, astronaut food has come a long way.
She compares space food right now to what you might bring with you on a camping trip.
For modern day astronauts, strong flavors are important because being in space causes almost a constant state of congestion as fluids act differently than how they would on Earth.
"The most requested food item in space is hot sauce actually because when you're in space, it's like having a sinus cold," said English.
Other amazing exhibits that shouldn't be missed at the Discovery Center include Spacelab and an exhibit on the history of space suits.
If you have an interest in space like I do, then you'll want to spend an hour or two to fully experience the museum.
For more information on programming and to purchase tickets, visit Discoverspace.org.