The relatively new whitewater experience in downtown Columbus has impressively increased the number of tourists visiting the Columbus area. Hundreds of thousands were already coming because of the National Infantry Museum, the National Civil War Naval Museum, and the Columbus State University Coca-Cola Space Science Center. And now, the Coca-Cola Space Science Center could be on the verge of making Columbus an even greater national tourist destination.
CCSSC Executive Director Dr. Shawn Cruzen told members of the Rotary Club of Columbus that adding the 1/4 scale model space shuttle to the center’s museum and affiliating with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. will make the CCSSC an even greater tourist attraction, as well as enhance the educational aspects of the facility.
Dr. Cruzen told me that the space shuttle model played a large role in the development of the space shuttle. It was used as a testing prototype. Developers of the shuttle had to know if the three elements involved in the launching of the shuttle, the main rocket, it’s attached fuel tank, and the shuttle, could withstand the violent vibrations that would happen during a launch. They found out by submitting the prototype to those vibrations created by a machine. That makes the prototype, a $9.3 million gift of NASA’s to CCSSC, a highly valuable historical artifact.
However, it will take an estimated $2 million to modify the CCSSC building to display it. As part of the efffort to raise the funds, the center brought Dr. Valerie Neal, Director of the “Space History Division” of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, to Columbus to speak at fund-raising events. She was also scheduled to speak to the Rotary Club of Columbus, but commercial flight problems caused her to miss that; However, Dr. Cruzen and Mary Johnson, Assistant Executive Director of CCSSC, impressively substituted for her, in my view. Their presentations were well-received by the audience.
The CCSSC will do what it takes to make the affiliation application to the Smithsonian next year, and has a goal of achieving affiliation in 2016. There are all sorts of educational and promotional benefits in becoming an Smithsonian affiliate, including use of artifacts and bringing Smithsonian experts to Columbus to speak.
I hope Columbus leaders will give full support to this initiative. The Coca-Cola Space Science Center is a valuable asset for the area. Shows in the world-class Omnisphere planetarium alone are worth a visit, thanks to the creativity and skills of its director, Lance Tankersley.