Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Back to the Moon for Good at the National Space Centre

October half term was filled with almost intellectual activities for the children. We went to the ballet, I took them to the House of Lords and we went on a whistle-stop tour of the major sights in the area, spotting Princess Anne and George Osborne along the way (not together, I hasten to add). We even went to see a Victorian underground reservoir near home that was going to be demolished a few days later.

The end of the holiday week saw us getting up early on a Sunday when we could have had a lie in and heading down to Leicester to the National Space Centre. Once we'd passed the downpours (we were ahead of this accident by 10 minutes), it was a bright sunny day and we made the trip from Lancashire in a couple of hours, arriving just before it opened. 

After a brew and a bit of breakfast (which meant Monkey foraging for what food he could find), we went off to explore the Space Centre. The children loved the interactive displays, and had fun being weather forecasters, bein astronauts and looking at rockets. We went in the scenic lift up to the top but it was too high for me. Children didn't even notice. 

The main purpose of the day was to see the worldwide premiere of the film called Back to the Moon for Good which tells the story of the Google Lunar X-Prize. Teams around the world are currently competing to be the first to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon, get it to travel 500 metres and send video, images and data back to earth. It's designed to renew interest in space exploration again and all these teams are private groups, not government funded. The prize is $30 million. Worth having then! (If you want to have a go, you're already too late; teams had to be registered some time back.). The film was made in-house at National Space Centre by their creative team, who are obviously very clever and talented people. 

The film was shown in the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium, which is a full dome planetarium showing this film and the largest of its sort in the UK, that opened just last year. That's right - a full dome. To give you an idea, here's a photo I took inside before the film started. Bit blurry,  but that's all screen! I was a little apprehensive because the last time I watched a film in a similar set up, I was 18 weeks pregnant with Monkey and I started feeling very sick from motion sickness (something I don't usually get) and it took me about 20 minutes to recover. 

Before we went in, we were treated to a gourmet popcorn buffet - never thought I'd see the day when I'd say my favourite flavour was goat's cheese and black pepper. 

When the film started, it is truly an assault on your senses. You feel like you are in the film. The way it is put together is incredible. I loved it and would definitely recommend seeing it but during the film, the sense of movement is so strong that my brain started getting confused and started making me feel sick (tho it could have been too much popcorn!). I had to keep closing my eyes when there was a sense of movement on screen. Obviously, it's just me as no-one else seems to have been bothered by it. 

The children were completely mesmerised by it all, so much so that a few days ago, some two weeks after this event, Monkey told me that he'd been "dolly-daydreaming" about going into space. I guess that's part of the reason for the prize - not just to get people doing it, but to inspire future generations too. 

After the film (and I started to feel better almost straight away), we were able to ask questions about the prize. Someone from Google attended, as well as members of the German team competing for the prize. The children managed to wheedle a poster each out of us before we left, even though they had been given a cuddly space animal each already. 

Google plans to send a copy of the film in flat screen form to all schools. However, if you can, catch it in a fulldome. You can find all the locations where the film will be shown here. There are 11 around the UK and over 80 around the world. 

(NSC invited us to spend a day visiting the Space Centre and to attend the premiere of Back to the Moon for Good. Thanks also to them for providing lunch, gourmet popcorn, and  pace toys for the children.)
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