A Sensory Overload

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Mon, 01/26/2009 - 19:00 -- Nick Dager

Galaxy Theatres and NASA Fulfill Digital Cinema’s Promise and Reach for the Stars As we previewed in our last Report on a Wednesday morning last month students from several nearby schools gathered at Galaxy Theatres in Gig Harbor Washington to participate in a live twenty-five-minute question-and-answer session with Expedition 18 astronauts Mike Fincke and Sandra Magnus from the International Space Station. To say the event was a success would be an enormous understatement. Some 1 200 people attended and in the words of Galaxy Theatres CEO Frank Rimkus “the whole experience was a sensory overload. We had high hopes and even exceeded them.” Most of the students were from Key Peninsula Middle School in Lakebay Washington one of two NASA Explorer Schools in Washington State Peninsula School District's Vaughn Elementary School Harbor Ridge Middle School and Peninsula High School. Key Peninsula Middle School students currently engage in aerospace learning experiences research and simulations that expose them to the challenging endeavor of human space exploration. The NASA Explorer School program at Key Peninsula Middle School currently in its fifth year provides many extended opportunities for students to engage in science math engineering and technology-related critical thinking projects.  The NASA Explorer School program incorporates state-aligned NASA education resources into school curriculum.  
 To prepare for the downlink Key Peninsula students studied the history and mission of the space station and mission control rocket fabrication astronaut selection and training and mission control and station operations. 
 Among the adults present were several from major foundations who Rimkus invited in hopes that they might want to participate in and help fund similar future events. A director of one of those approached him afterwards to congratulate him and referring to digital cinema technology said “I didn’t realize the capabilities.” “It really wasn’t about Galaxy ” says Rimkus. “It was about the kids.” Before the live connection the NASA movie Magnificent Desolation was screened. Rimkus welcomed the student and adult guests and explained some of the details of what they were about to see. The Space Station was traveling at about 17 500 MPH and was approximately 125 miles above the surface of the Earth. When the Q&A began the Space Station would be over the South Pacific Ocean; by the time it ended they would have traveled halfway around the globe. The Galaxy Theatres in Washington has ten screens. All ten screens were used for the vent. All of them are digital and the largest in the main theatre is almost 100-feet wide. When the image first appeared on the screen Fincke and Magnus were floating inside the Space Station. They said “Good morning Key Peninsula school students ” the ten theatres in the complex all filled with a loud cheer. Another crowd pleaser was when Fincke did a somersault in mid-air. Once the session was underway Rimkus says for the most part “you could hear a pin drop.” He adds “There was not a person in that room including me who will forget this.” The next step is to debrief. “Where do we go from here?” Rimkus says. “There was a real Wow factor to this. Even two years ago we could not have done this. How do we expand on this?” Click the links below to access stories about the event from local newspapers and to hear the National Public Radio story. http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kplu/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTI...