Space exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History

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 Images I 13465 I02 20. Biosuit Df.4039 "Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration" opened this week at NYC's American Museum of Natural History. The magnificent-sounding exhibition includes a model of a proposed moon habitat, space elevator designs, a model of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two, a Martian diorama, artifacts from the Russian space program, prototype spacesuits, and a robot submarine that could explore Jupiter's moon Europa. Plus an otherworldly assortment of interactive exhibits, dioramas, art, and edutainment. The exhibit runs until August 2012, so there's plenty of time for a trip. Left, a prototype BioSuit from MIT. Above, illustrator/astrophysicist Mark Garlick's rendering of a lunar elevator station.

Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration (AMNH)

"Gallery: NYC Museum's New Space Show" (



  1. I sure am glad we spent all the money at the end of the Cold War and post 9/11 on making war on those who oppose democracy. I mean if we had wasted all that money on expanding into the solar system and obtaining new resources and new energies gosh think how poor we’d be. Also don’t forget all that outsourcing we’d have missed out on.  I sure am glad we turned down raw resources on par with Siberia combined with energy abundance that makes Saudia Arabia look like a depleted Oklahoma oil field. I sure like our coal burning, oil thirsty, debt ridden future we chose instead. Phew, imagine the future we’ve missed out on.

    1. I want that space-mining, solar-panel-orbiting, rogue-asteroid-blasting future just as much as the next space geek, but it’s still some ways in the future and is going to take a substantial long-term investment well in excess of the trillions that have been added to the national debt in the last decade. That, in turn, will take substantial political skills, and we’ve seen how well NASA has managed that.

  2. So, would we increase the Moon’s speed so that it orbits the Earth in 1 day, or slow down the Earth’s rotation to match the orbital period of the Moon?

    1. Neither.  We use an elevator that only goes about 100,000 miles up (not all the way to the Moon) to get stuff out of the gravity well of the Earth. 

      We can either launch things so they meet with the Moon without additional thrust or put them in orbit and send them to the moon when the opportunity presents itself.

      The elevator touches the Earth but ends in space.  It does not touch both the Earth and the Moon.  Please, click the wiki link, it will help a lot.  It has colorful pictures and everything that my monochromatic text is lacking!

      1. To raise an object from the surface of the Earth you’re doing work against the Earth’s gravity, investing the object with potential energy that it did not have before. You’re using an elevator instead of rockets- fine. Where does the elevator get the energy to lift the object?

        1. It’s not about using less energy, it’s using it more effectively.  Similar to how a train moves a short ton 436 miles to the gallon compared to what a car does with a gallon of fuel.  Space elevators would move the final product at a lower cost but at a slower speed. 

          Some proposals include power sources that are not carried by the climber, this reducing it’s weight even further:

  3. I was in NYC for the first half of this month, and was a bit disappointed to discover this exhibit wasn’t opening until shortly after I left when I went to the museum.
    But: there is a fantastic photography exhibit of Apollo mission photographs (not the ones you’ve seen before) in there that is not to be missed – it’s stunning. 

    Plus, as a geologist it’s my duty to inform you that the geology exhibit in there (not the hall of minerals, which is good, but the geology stuff near the planetarium) is easily the best in the country, perhaps the world, if you want a very good overview of geology.

    1. If you’re interested in the photos of the moon ( I highly, highly, highly recommend Michael Light’s book of the project called Full Moon as well.  Great curating and a great eye. 

      I’m always surprised to see how much color film they used up there, in that monochromatic world the gold hose covers and color from the patches just pop!  But if you can’t make it up to see the photos, get the book:

  4. I like the MIT BioSuit prototype:  it is form-fitting enough to make her look female and the life-sustaining gadgetry is streamlined to barely a back-pack and helmet.

    1. Force =/= energy.  I should have clarified that in my last comment.

      The amount of force required to move a pound into orbit remains the same.

      The amount of energy required to create that force is lower.

      The Saturn V held 5.6 million pounds of propellant to get 120 tons into orbit.  It did it quickly, safely and made for really great television.

      However, it still required moving 5,600,000 pounds to get 240,000 pounds into orbit.

      Space elevators are capable of using self-contained solar power to lift 20,000 pounds at 200 miles an hour.  Slower, for certain, but certainly using  less energy and certainly greater lifting capability.

      Rockets currently cost $11,000 to get a pound to geostationary orbit.  If a space elevator can drop it to $100 a pound, the payoff starts to look pretty good over a twenty year time period. 

      The Space Shuttle was $450 million dollars to launch it.  Every single time.  Endeavor was 1.7 billion dollars.

      Five shuttles at 1.7 billion dollars, (8.5 billion) with 135 missions (60.75 billion) and we’re at almost 70 billion dollars to build and launch shuttles.  Not including the original design and testing phase.  This includes years of groundings, loss of 14 astronauts, two shuttles and the cost of standard rockets starts to look pretty high in comparison, especially with $11,000 a pound the entire time.

      How much energy to build the Space Shuttles?  How much energy to send Mir capsules up to the ISS?  Technologies to allow a man to walk in the vacuum of space?  And why would you ever need to get in a horseless carriage to go more than ten miles an hour?  Your face would melt off!  Sometimes you need to stop investing in buggy whips and look into car horns.

  5. Just went to this today, and it was pretty cool. I had a museum pass thanks to a friend, but I’d say it would have been well worth the money.

    There’s also a cool AR app for the iPhone that works in the exhibit that I downloaded and tried. It really just showed a few AR animations, and a little bit of extra info on some of the pieces, and while I wished it had a bit more to it, it would be a great way to get kids involved in the exhibit.

    All in all I feel like this should be required for anyone from Congress who feel that we need need to cut back on the space program. It not only will inspire a longing for space exploration, but show that we NEED to go back.

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