Spacing Out at the Bookstore

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Late Sunday night, NASA successfully landed the rover Curiosity in the Gale Crater on the surface of Mars. A far cry from 1997’s skateboard-sized rover, Sojourner, this beast of a machine is the size of a soccer mom’s SUV and is, in essence, a full-fledged geochemistry lab on wheels.

It can vaporize rocks, test air and soil samples, and send data and experiment results 154 million miles back to Earth. Its mission is to further our understanding of the red planet, and help discover whether or not it is able to sustain life forms.

I must admit however, that the guys over at JPL may as well be speaking Greek about a lot of this stuff. I have a rudimentary, grade school understanding of how this all works of course, but let’s face it, I can’t even keep up with how many planets are in the solar system.

I was on-board with Pluto’s secession from the planetary union, but I must have missed the memo welcoming the quasi-planet back, as well as the bit about him being accompanied by four new friends, bringing the tally of current planets up to lucky number 13.

If you suffer as I do from a case of space ignorance, perhaps you should plan on a quick visit to Barnes and Noble, Fashion Island.

On Friday, August 24 at 1:00 p.m., Barnes and Noble will host the Klutz Explore the Galaxy Hands-on Learning Event, as part of their Summer Reading series. The event is designed for parents and children ages 4 and up, and will encourage the exploration of space.

Kids and their parents will have the opportunity to enjoy the many space-themed books that will be on display, as well as to design and color stickers depicting the night sky and other space themes.

Sounds like a perfect way for both mom and the kids to brush up on our space knowledge!

Once your budding astronauts have finished designing the galaxy, and before heading home to transform the bedroom ceiling, make sure to take the opportunity to choose a book about space, so you can continue the learning at home.

There are so many fantastic books to choose from on this topic.  If your child longs to explore the galaxy, choose a biography of one of our amazing astronauts. If you have a scientist on your hands, find a book comparing and contrasting our home with the other planets in the solar system. Or, if you have someone who is just curious in general, why not pick up a basic guide to the galaxy?

Some great titles to watch for are:

“DK Readers: Astronaut Living in Space” by Deborah Lock

This early reader is appropriate for children who have started to read, but still need help. It gives readers an eyewitness account of what it takes to hold down a job in space, as told by a space shuttle astronaut.

“First Space Encyclopedia” by DK Publishing

Part of the DK “First Reference” series, this volume is recommended for ages 6 and up, and offers readers a basic introduction to the universe.

“13 Planets:  The Latest View of the Solar System” by David A. Aguilar

Designed for readers aged 8 and up, this member of the National Geographic Kids family of books is completely up-to-date on all the recent changes and discoveries made by the International Astronomical Union.

“Who Is Neil Armstrong?” by Roberta Edwards

Perfect for 3rd-5th graders, this biography lets us glimpse what led up to Neil taking his “giant leap for mankind.”

Once you’ve finished up your reading, and displayed your newly-made solar systems, be sure to check out NASA’s website for live views from the Curiosity.

After all, who knows – the curiosity we encourage today may turn into tomorrow’s next “giant leap.”

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