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Queens Chronicle

Flight dreams for all taking off at NYSCI

The future of air, space travel at NYSCI

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Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:03 pm, Thu Jul 11, 2019.

Imagine you could take an elevator on a cable to a space station.

Imagine you could design and fly the next generation of aircraft.

And while we can’t fly like birds, what if we could?

“Above and Beyond,” an interactive exhibit at the New York Hall of Science, invites people of all ages to imagine all this and more, with not even the sky being the limit.

And the exhibit has an impressive pedigree — Evergreen Productions has put it together in coordination with NASA, Boeing and the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum.

The almost completely interactive extravaganza immerses visitors in flight from its earliest history to far into the future.

“What’s super exciting to me is that you have some of the actual prototypes of machines NASA and Boeing used on crafts for unmanned flight,” said Michael Cosaboom, director of Exhibit Services at NYSCI. “On some early prototypes they used welded steel and carved foam. They used bowling balls for ballast. They were building things that would take us into space. It’s visceral.”

Entering the exhibit one walks into a small chamber where a large movie screen shows “Beyond the Limits,” a video celebrating the scientists and the spirit who push the known limits of flight.

Once inside, any Trekkie who ever wanted to visit a Holodeck would be unable to miss “Spread Your Wings.”

Cosaboom pointed out that all of flight from its infancy has had to deal with the straight physics of lift and thrust overcoming weight and drag. In “Spread Your Wings,” motion sensor technology and computer graphics explain why humans can’t fly like geese — and then shows them how to do just that in an interactive virtual reality.

But pay too much attention to that and one could easily miss “Dreams Aloft,” interactive screens in a nearby corner, on which young scientists, engineers and mathematicians discuss how they are working to achieve their own dreams to allow humans to fly ever higher, farther and faster.

A short distance away is the present every kid — including Cosaboom — dreamed of getting for a birthday or under the Christmas tree: a jet pack built in 1960 by Bell Aerosystems for the U.S. military.

“That really blew my mind,” Cosaboom said. “The first time I saw something like that was in the movies — then you see that someone made a jet pack and flew it.”

But for a real rush, the “Full Throttle” exhibit probably takes the prize.

Stage one has visitors design fighter jets on an interactive screen just inside the exhibit’s outer railing.

In stage two they sit down in a simulator with yokes, buttons and lights and fly their creation on a screen against a competitor who has crafted a design of his or her own.

Also on exhibit are tributes to success, like the 3-foot-long model of the old space shuttle sculpted in carbon which was used in wind tunnels to test aerodynamics and the resistance of various exterior shuttle materials to the intense heat encountered when exiting and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

There are also remnants of initial failures, such as a bent, battered portion of an early rover craft prototype that was destroyed shortly after an experimental launch.

Looking toward the future are displays of drones, one so small it resembles an insect and must be seen under a powerful magnifying glass.

Among the fun facts are the challenges of a future trip to Mars. One factor would be the length of a manned trip — six months for a 55 million kilometer one-way as opposed to three days to the moon with the fuel, propulsion systems and materials available today.

And nothing would be possible without innovations in material, such as carbon fibers, which are stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum. One exhibit invites visitors to lift identically sized and shaped sections of an aircraft fuselage with levers. Aluminum weighs 24 pounds. Carbon fiber comes in at 16.5.

Carbon “nanotubes” also are the key to a Japanese company’s plans to have an elevator to space by 2050.

‘Above and Beyond’

When: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon.-Fri.; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. and Sun, through Sept. 8.

Where: New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111 St., Corona.

Entry: $20 adults/15 children with combo admission ticket; (718) 699-0005. nysci.org/visit/ ticket-packages.

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