Dr William Hartmann visits Woodstock IL

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Dr. William Harmann at the Challenger Learning Center in Woodstock, IL - 14-Jul 2005

I attended this event last night, which was held at the Challenger Learning Center for Science and Technology which is in downtown Woodstock one block away from the historic Woodstock square. The Challenger Learning Center is an interactive space-science education center offering an interactive simulated space science experience for students, families and corporate groups. Being my first time there, I had a brief look around. There were interactive exhibits such as illustrating the weight of a bowling ball on Earth, the Moon and Jupiter. I also snuck a peak into a backroom where a space shuttle replica was being worked on. Not sure if it's a simulator or just a display. It seemed kind of small to be a simulator.

Dr. Hartmann with Al Degutis
Dr. Hartmann with Al Degutis

Dr. William Hartmann's appearance was sponsored by the Planetary Studies Foundation (PSF), which I just learned last night is based in Crystal Lake, IL. I spoke briefly with PSF President Paul Sipiera before he started the program. Mr. Sipiera started by announcing that the Challenger Learning Center has teamed up with the Planetary Studies Foundation and the PSF will be headquartered there. In addition, the PSF meteorite collection, the 10th largest in the world, will be on display there. There were about 40 people in attendance, ranging in age from 10 years old to 80 years old.

Dr. Hartmann, who was a member of the Mars Global Surveyor team member and has had many books and textbooks published, did an hour-long presentation accompanied by a slideshow. The basis for his talk was the content found in his newly revised "The Grand Tour: A Traveler's Guide to the Solar System". Dr. Hartmann, a member of the International Association of Astronomical Artists, explained how the artists must take the information from numerous scientific teams (e.g. one studying a planet’s geology, another studying the atmosphere, etc.) and meld them together into a painting that illustrates what it might be like to stand on a Titan, a moon of Saturn, and look back at the planet. He showed paintings that illustrated how as our understanding of Titam changed, so did the illustrations to encompass the new data. One area Dr Hartmann would like to see NASA work on is improving solar panel collection capabilities so that we could lower the cost of solar power and benefit from it here on Earth was well as on missions in space.

There was a brief Q&A session that concluded with a 10 year old girl asking his opinion if Pluto should be considered a planet. Dr Hartmann's response was “if it was discovered today it wouldn't be�? but then took a political approach and said it's a matter of definition and perspective. Following the Q&A he did a book signing.

I look forward to attending future Planetary Studies Foundation events at the Challenger Learning Center.

More on Dr Hartmann: http://www.psi.edu/hartmann/

More about the Planetary Studies Foundation: http://www.planets.org/

More about the Challenger Learning Center in Woodstock,IL: http://www.challengerillinois.org