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Space Museum takes audiences on a journey into space

The Hong Kong Space Museum will screen its latest Sky Show 'Odyssey to Space' from today (June 25). It takes audiences on a wonderful trip to the International Space Station, the moon and Mars.

Reaching out beyond Earth has been a dream of mankind from time immemorial. The history of exploring space, starting from the launch of the first artificial satellite in 1957 to the Chinese lunar exploration programme and Mars exploration, shows the efforts that humans have made to realise this dream.

The construction of the International Space Station started in 1998. It is a collaborative project of the scientific and research institutes of many nations including the USA, Russia, Japan, Canada and 17 European countries. The space station, almost as big as a football pitch, mainly comprises modules including laboratories , the docking module for space shuttles, living quarters, giant solar panels for electricity generation, the lifeboat and many other facilities.

However, travelling to space is not easy. In the micro-gravity state, some body functions may be adversely affected. For example, there may be muscular dystrophy, and reduction of blood supply will eventually weaken the heart. To keep their bodies in good condition, physical exercise is necessary for the astronauts every day.

"Odyssey to Space" will also take audiences to the moon, the closest celestial body to Earth and its only natural satellite . Although the moon's darker and flatter plains are called "maria", meaning "seas", there is no water in them. The light-coloured regions are called "terrae", or "highlands", where there are impact craters of various sizes. It is believed that most of them were formed by asteroids and comets impacting on the lunar surface.

Up to December 1972, a total of 12 astronauts had landed on the moon, with Neil Armstrong being the first on July 20, 1969.

The official launching of the "Chang'e Programme" in 2004 was China's first lunar exploration project and a soft lunar lander is scheduled to descend onto the moon's surface around 2012.

The distance between the moon and Earth is about 380,000 kilometres, which takes about five to six days to travel. But Mars is much further away. The distance between Earth and Mars is about 56 million kilometres. It takes more than half a year to travel from Earth to Mars.

The diameter and mass of Mars is only about half and one 10th of that of Earth respectively. However, the two planets do have many similar traits. The rotation period of Mars is 24 hours 37 minutes, almost same as that of Earth. Mars also has seasons because of the inclination of its rotational axis. Since Mars takes 687 days to travel round the sun, its summer lasts for about 180 days.

However, the environment of Mars is much more hostile than that of Earth. The temperature of Mars is about minus 61 degrees centigrade on average, and may be as low as minus 140 degrees centigrade at its coldest. Frequent dust storms occur on its surface. During the most powerful storms, the dust sometimes covers up almost the whole planet.

Following the landing of the spacecraft "Mars Pathfinder" in July, 1997, "Phoenix", the Mars probe launched by NASA of the USA successfully landed on Mars in late May 2008, carrying out its mission of searching for possible sources of water.

Why are humans so tenacious in their quest to explore space? Scientists believe that air pollutants caused by human beings like carbon dioxide are damaging the global climate. As a result, Earth may not be suitable for living things one day. Therefore, until we can find a place to live in space, we have to protect our homeland, Earth.

Showing until September 15, the 40-minute Sky Show, "Odyssey to Space", will be screened daily at 2.40pm and 6.10pm at the museum's Stanley Ho Space Theatre. There will be an additional screening at 11.10am on Sundays and public holidays.

Tickets are available at the Space Museum Box Office and at all URBTIX outlets for $24 (front stalls) and $32 (stalls). Full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities will receive a half-price concession.

The Space Museum is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. For further information, call 2721 0226 or visit the website at .

Ends/Wednesday, June 25, 2008

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