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Sciencenter Celebrates Explorers and Pioneers of Flight

July 21, 2005

ITHACA, NY - The Sciencenter invites area residents to visit the museum and to write messages to Space Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins and the Discovery crew. The personal messages of support and admiration, which are already streaming in, will be compiled in a special message binder and sent to NASA after the mission.

To coincide with and to celebrate NASA's much-anticipated return to space flight, the Sciencenter is saluting explorers and pioneers of flight on its Wall of Inspiration, a permanent exhibit of plaques celebrating the achievements of more than 100 scientists and inventors.

The scientists who are currently highlighted include Elmira native, Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a Shuttle mission; astronaut and physicist, Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; and Robert Henry Lawrence, the first African American astronaut (who died in a training accident before his first flight into space). Today it is Collins, poised to lead the first crew of astronauts into space since the 2003 Columbia disaster, who is a critical force in moving the space exploration program forward.

A veteran of three space flights and more than 537 hours in space, Collins is a role model and an inspiration- especially for young women. A common theme emerging from the messages calls for more women in space and science in general. "I wish there were more women astronauts like you," writes one visitor. With the Columbia disaster still fresh in everyone's minds, a young visitor named Lincoln (age 11), writes, "Dear Commander Collins, I hope you succeed with your mission." His thoughts are echoed by another visitor who writes, "I am proud of you and your crew. Good luck and have a safe trip."

"Congratulations on being a commander-that's awesome. I wish I could go in space" and "Thank you for helping mankind learn about space. You're out of this world!" are some of the other comments written by local families, out-of-state visitors, and students from Cornell University. Artwork featuring earth, stars and space shuttles accompany many of the messages.

Children attending summer camp at the Sciencenter will have an opportunity to write to the astronauts after hearing how Collins became inspired during a summer camp in Elmira, NY.

Growing up in the "Soaring Capital of America" with its rich history of flight, Collins watched sailplanes take off and dreamed of one day pursuing her passion for flight. As a child, she further developed this interest by reading books about such pioneering aviators as Wilbur and Orville Wright, whose historic contributions to flight are also celebrated on the Sciencenter Wall of Inspiration.

Visitors are invited to view plaques honoring other female pioneers of flight: Amelia Earhart, the first person to fly solo across the Pacific ocean and first woman to fly across the Atlantic ocean, and Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to fly an airplane.

The Wall of Inspiration features both famous and lesser-known scientists who have made significant contributions to society. Each plaque includes the name of the scientist, a description of his or her achievements, a photo, a quote, and a dedication from the donor. The Wall of Inspiration is located in the Community Room of the Sciencenter. This exhibit can be explored with regular Sciencenter admission (members and children under age 3: free; children ages 3-17: $4; adults $6; seniors 65+: $5). In July and August, Sciencenter hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The Sciencenter will be open on Labor Day and other National Holidays that fall on a Monday.

The Sciencenter, located at 601 First Street in Ithaca, is a hands-on science museum for people of all ages with over 200 exhibits, educational programs, an outdoor science park, a seasonal 18-hole miniature golf course and a museum store. For membership information, current programs and activities go to www.sciencenter.org. The Sciencenter is a proud member of Ithaca's Discovery Trail; more information can be found at www.DiscoveryTrail.net.

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