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Space Exploration / December 8, 2016

Dr. Malina Hills and retired Aerospace engineer Steven Soukup at opening of the Space Exploration Gallery of the Flight Path Museum and Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 22. (Photo: Elisa Haber)

The Space Exploration Gallery, the newest exhibit at the Flight Path Museum and Learning Center and cosponsored by Aerospace, has officially opened following a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Thursday, Sept. 22.

The museum, which is located adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport, hosted the event. Dr. Malina Hills, vice president, Space Program Operations, addressed attendees during the program. Hills shared her thoughts about the gallery and the role it will play in exposing visitors, and especially students, to space. “It will undoubtedly lead, at least some of them, to take an interest in science, math, engineering, astronomy, or any other academic field that relates to space, ” Hills said.

The museum’s mission includes encouraging youth to pursue education and careers in aviation and aerospace-related fields, a natural fit for the Aerospace-sponsored gallery.

“It is my hope that at least a small portion of that new generation of scientists and engineers will have been inspired by something they read, saw, or experienced right here at Flight Path, ” said Hills.

At the gallery’s entrance, titled “The Journey Begins, ” visitors are greeted with the Konstantin Tsiolkovsky quotation, “Earth is the cradle of humanity; but one cannot live in a cradle forever.” As visitors enter, a series of colorful, wall-mounted graphics on the east side of the room are displayed, featuring the story of early visionaries who, during the past 4, 000 years, have contributed to humankind’s knowledge and understanding of modern space exploration. Biographic plaques of the early pioneers of Earth-based space exploration provide historical context for the displays and exhibits that follow.

Moving on to the south wall of the gallery, titled “The Journey Continues, ” onlookers are treated to the history and major events of humankind’s modern space exploration efforts. A series of plaques with text and images, beginning in the 1950s and moving to the present, describe the major space flight and space exploration achievements of each decade. A video monitor featuring historic footage of many of the events described in the gallery enhances the experience.

The west wall of the gallery is still in development and will ultimately feature information about the technologies the aerospace industry has developed and employs to launch and operate various space systems.

The gallery also includes display cases featuring an assortment of space vehicle and satellite models, as well as space-related memorabilia. The centerpiece of the displays is the space flight suit worn and donated by space shuttle astronaut and retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton. Chilton is also a former Aerospace trustee. The museum is hoping to add items from the public and other aerospace industry members in the months and years ahead.

The gallery’s concept is the brainchild of Aerospace retired engineer Steven Soukup, who is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and also serves on the museum’s board of directors. Soukup thanked Aerospace and members of the corporation’s Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Division for their contributions to the gallery’s design, graphics, and editorial content. A reception immediately followed the opening.