My 8-year-old-daughter put the marshmallows in the bell jar and turned on the pump to suck out all of the air and create a vacuum. The marshmallows began to expand. Then when she turned off the pump, the marshmallows appeared to go back to their original size. However, when the educator opened the bell jar, the marshmallows shriveled up right before our eyes!
The educator explained that human tissue has the same water content as marshmallows and if we went into the vacuum of space, our bodies would have the same type of reaction as the marshmallows – all of the water would be pulled from our bodies. Our big takeaway from Poof! Life in a Vacuum at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum was that astronauts need to live in a closed environment at all times so don’t go into outer space without the proper equipment!
The USS Intrepid is an aircraft carrier that saw active duty during both World War II and the Vietnam War and is now a museum on Manhattan’s west side which houses a submarine; a Concorde; various airplanes, jets, and helicopters; and even a space shuttle! The latest edition to its impressive collection is the space shuttle Enterprise, which was the first to be tested.
Having seen the shuttles on TV, we were surprised at how big and rounded the Enterprise was in real life. Another interesting discovery was that the shuttle was actually named in honor of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise – apparently, more than 400,000 fans wrote to President Ford lobbying to have the name changed from Constitution to Enterprise. Never again, will our family underestimate the power of Trekkers! While in the Space Shuttle Pavilion, we also saw water boiling at room temperature in a vacuum during Poof! Life in a Vacuum and learned about how inventions for space travel have been applied to everyday life – from titanium framed glasses to fruit and vegetable sprays!
Then on the flight deck, we checked out the jets, planes, and helicopters before riding the elevator used to transport planes and jets from the hangar bay to the flight deck. This massive elevator could bring a jet up in just 7 seconds! We were surprised that it was covered in teak wood, which is apparently easier to repair and replace than the metal that covers the flight deck. This multifunctional elevator also served as a volleyball court and a stage for concerts while at sea.
From the flight deck, we went up top to the command deck where an admiral could command an entire fleet and the navigation deck where a commander would manage the Intrepid. We were amazed at the low-tech on all of the navigation and communication systems. There were dedicated phone lines to communicate with different areas of the ship and light tables for viewing maps. A veteran serviceman of the Intrepid pointed out the steering wheel and explained that there were always 2 people steering the Intrepid. One of them could be as young as 19!
Seeing all of these historical military artifacts that were used to explore and protect on behalf of our country really gave us a greater appreciation for our armed services and it’s rich history!
- Skills: Visual acuity (observing small details), gross motor, curiosity
- Preparation: Wear comfortable shoes since you can walk through several different parts of the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier and the Growler submarine
- Cost: General admission is $24 for adults, $19 for youths ages 7-17, and $12 for children ages 3-6 which includes the Intrepid and the submarine. There is an additional fee for the Space Shuttle Pavilion of $7 for adults, $5 for youths ages 7-17, and $5 for children ages 3-6. Family memberships start at $200 per year. Our public library has a Museum Pass program so library patrons can go for free. We used the Museum Pass which covers general admission and then paid the difference to see the space shuttle (2 adults + 2 youths = $24)
- Time & Energy: It’s an hour drive from our house. Parking is difficult in the area so we paid to park in a lot which was $30 for regular cars and $45 for SUVs and minivans. We spent the whole day there. The Hudson River Park is on both sides of the Intrepid so you can stroll along its walkway on nice days.
- Contact Info: The Intrepid has a website (http://www.intrepidmuseum.org).