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By Doug Millard on

Making Space

Office move time again: sorting, listing, boxing, chucking… all a bit of a chore. But then you come across something a little out of the ordinary – like a Destination Mars Regenerative Life Support Challenge.

Destination Mars Kit (Doug Millard)
Destination Mars Kit (Doug Millard)

This is a school kit put together by the Museum of Science in Boston, Lockheed Martin and NASA back in 1998. It contains all sorts of goodies to teach youngsters about how people might survive on Mars. It even includes a pack of seeds flown on Shuttle mission STS-86 in 2007.

There was a time when such items would not be considered for the Science Museum’s Collections: they would have been classed as ephemera and used only in support activities like talks and workshops. But Destination Mars should be formally accessioned now because  it can tell stories about current and future space exploration, the scientific and technological challenges of going to Mars, space education and, of course, a specific Shuttle mission (that also happened to return a British born astronaut – Michael Foale from the Mir space station in 1997).

Shuttle orbiter Atlantis completes mission STS-86
Shuttle orbiter Atlantis completes mission STS-86, 1997 (Nasa)

We are told we live in a digital world (this blog does support the argument) but I think there will long be a role for physical things like the Destination Mars kit. There’s something about the artefact that appeals, and particularly to the young as they explore and make their way in life. Sometimes it stimulates a life-long interest, maybe points towards a future career.

Finding the kit reminded me of something else in the office that should also go into the collections: Touchdown on the Moon.

Touchdown on the Moon pack
Touchdown on the Moon pack (Doug Millard)

I remember buying one of these packs from North Finchley WHSmiths in 1969. ‘This Spacecraft Commander’s Kit puts you inside Apollo to share every hour of flight and lunar exploration’, it says. It did that and – come to think of it –  help steer me towards that office which is now, just about, cleared and ready for the next occupant.