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‘Astronaut’ exhibit at Springs Preserve explores daily life in space

Blast off — without ever leaving the ground.

Test your mettle — and your stomach — by riding a centrifuge capsule simulating the forces of gravity.

See which snacks pass muster in outer space. (One hint: Stay away from the potato chips — the resulting crumbs could float everywhere, including into your eyes.)

And speaking of eyes, check out a special eye chart with this explanatory message:

Y

OU

REY

ESIG

HTGET

SWORSEI

NSPACED

UETOFLUID

PRESSUREF

ROMMICR

OGRAVITY

(Translation: Your eyesight gets worse in space due to fluid pressure from microgravity.)

A different type of fluid pressure, meanwhile, brings us to the advanced technology required to deal with the most elemental bodily functions; lack of gravity definitely complicates the process of using the toilet.

These and other down-to-earth topics inspire the touring exhibit “Astronaut,” at the Springs Preserve’s Origen Museum through Sept. 17.

Through a variety of exhibits, many of them interactive, visitors can explore “how people can get into space and what it takes to be an astronaut,” explains Aaron Micallef, the preserve’s exhibits curator.

And while it’s plenty kid-friendly, kids of all ages will gravitate to its displays — especially during Las Vegas’ long, hot summer, when a voyage inside the Origen Museum can “help get visitors out of the sun,” Micallef adds.

The exhibit launches — literally — with a simulated blast-off that leaves passengers shaking in their bucket seats. For an even bigger motion-sickness challenge, there’s always the self-propelled G-force centrifuge capsule.

Another exhibit tests grip strength — an important attribute for astronauts battling gravitational forces, or lack thereof.

Video footage illustrates the latter, as astronauts (and cosmonauts) from around the world demonstrate the challenges of keeping fit aboard the space station.

One hangs upside down while doing leg squats. Another shows how an exercise bike’s pedals prevent her from floating away.

The exercise bike’s seat is there, but it’s not particularly functional, the astronaut explains, because “I haven’t sat down for six months now.”

The absence of gravity in space influences a variety of other everyday tasks, as “Astronaut” visitors will discover when they fasten themselves into sleeping compartments that resemble giant shoe pockets.

Or when they ponder the intricacies of a space toilet.

There’s an example of the latter you can check out; in an accompanying video, an Italian astronaut explains its pertinent features, including safety bars the astronauts lower over their legs to hold them in place, because (you guessed it) “you don’t really sit.” (There’s even an international array of toilet paper available, from scratchy Russian wipes to softer tissues — and, for those especially daunting space messes, disinfectant wipes.)

Other displays emphasize the mental and psychological aspects of space flight.

A “Pick Your Team” exhibit, for example, offers a multiple-choice quiz that determines your personality type (Analyst, Driver, Motivator or Relationship Master), then challenges you to choose colleagues that will complement your strengths — or risk the success of your space mission.

With its focus on practical topics, the “Astronaut” exhibit concentrates on the “day-to-day existence” of space explorers, Micallef notes, rather than “the cosmos and the galaxies.”

Contact Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.

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