El Paso Space Festival

By Amy R. Babcock

Recently, Insights organized a week’s worth of events that started with a Rocket Launch out at RC Airstrip on September 28, 2019. The rest of the week was filled with other events such as Family STEM Night, Rocket Science Educator Night, Planetarium Show, Star Party (unfortunately cancelled due to weather), Sci-Fi Science Nerd Night, and finally the Main Event: Space Adventure Extravaganza.

Nerd Night is typically a monthly event organized by Insights wherein a group of sci-fi nerds get together.  For the Space Festival, Nerd Night was held on Friday, October 4th and involved a panel discussion during a screening of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. The panel included experts from NASA, the co-founder of Boost Human, a UTEP Assistant Professor, a UTEP PhD Candidate, and yours truly. I can’t tell you what an honor it was to participate as part of this discussion group.

During the movie there was commentary from the panel, space travel facts, several presentations during the intermission, and a Q&A session involving the audience. At one point, the panel was asked what they consider to be a space adventure, personally. I admit, listening to all the others on the panel answer, given that there were engineers, educators, and business owners speaking, I was a bit nervous. I am an astronomer, and my field is observational astronomy.

It is, and has always been, my goal to inspire others to see that science isn’t something to fear. You don’t have to be good at math to understand how the universe works. You don’t need a fancy telescope to be fascinated by the night sky. I want to teach others to read the sky in such a way that they find wonder in just walking outside and looking up. So much time together is lost because of differing or busy schedules; and learning about astronomy can be a great way to spend quality time together. Plus, when a young mind is inspired by what they can see, imagine how much more interested in science they may become. Below, you will find the video of my answer about space adventures.

The Main Event: Space Adventure Extravaganza was held at Sunland Park Mall. This event was free and open to the public. This included many booths and demonstrations by a variety of companies, including an inflatable planetarium from Insights, an augmented reality presentation by EPCC, and the Sun City Astronomers were outside with solar telescopes until the sun went down, after which time they turned their telescopes to the moon. I ended up in a deep discussion with David from Spaceport America about how to get the public more interested in suborbital tourism. There are so many ideas in the works for the Spaceport that should prove to be very exciting in the near future.

If you missed this year’s Space Festival, don’t worry. They are likely already brainstorming for next year, and in April, you can attend the Las Cruces Space Festival. I am hoping to be a part of that one, as well. With so much to do and see and learn, I promise, it’ll be well worth your time. In the meantime, check out all the other events Insights has in the works.

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