Astronaut returns ‘home’ – to OMSI

Find out this space voyager’s special connection to Portland’s noted East Portland museum! You can still see the exhibit he was there to promote …

The featured OMSI exhibit Journey to Space: The Exhibition provides an immersive learning experience for people like East Portland’s Annie Robertson, who looks at this exhibit with her child.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Although “World Space Week” ended on October 10, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) continued its celebration with appearances by NASA Astronaut Dr. Mike Barratt MD, on October 14 and 15.

Before one of his public talks at OMSI, Astronaut Barratt spoke with East Portland News.

The astronaut grew up just across the river in Vancouver, but was an “OMSI kid”, who worked with the museum’s former space science instructors – and helped build a telescope while he was there.

NASA Astronaut Dr. Mike Barratt MD says he hadn’t dreamt of becoming an astronaut, but certainly enjoyed being one.

“But, being an astronaut wasn’t really a childhood dream for me,” Barratt said, who became a physician.

“I trained in internal medicine specifically to learn about physiology, to prepare me for space medicine,” Barratt remarked. “After I finished internal medicine, I did an aerospace residency. By that time I was already on a path toward the space program – not yet actually knowing I wanted to fly.

Visitors look at a scale model of the International Space Station.

“But I went down to the Johnson Space Center as a flight surgeon in 1991, and went to the Astronaut Office in 2000, and had a very happy nine-year career as a space flight medical officer.”

It hadn’t been until he was 35 years old that he realized he was very interested in long-duration [space] flight. “So, I threw my hat in the ring.”

In the exhibit, this family examines the properties of weightlessness.

The most interesting thing about spending about 200 days in space, circling the earth? “Watching humans adapt to space. I’d been learning about this and studying it for years and years. Going through this process myself was really cool.

“And, yes, looking outside and seeing the earth turning below was really cool too,” Barratt added.

What he called his “amazing big three” about being in space included:

  • Living in zero gravity;
  • Seeing your own planet from space; and,
  • Spending time with crewmates.

Guests examine a genuine, working space toilet (it’s the closet at far left) while visiting OMSI’s Journey to Space: The Exhibition exhibit.

Barratt endorsed OMSI as a great place for kids to learn about science. “I took a lot of classes, including marine science, and I did chemistry and astronomy.

“Coming here today was a cool was to give back,” Barratt reflected. “In another way, it’s cool seeing a bunch of kids reliving my childhood. I applaud their brilliant future; I hope they get into the science, as I did.”

In the mock-up of the Destiny Lab, guests experience the experience of “floating” as the cabin rotates around them.

OMSI’s robust and immersive currently-featured exhibit – covering two floors at OMSI – is called Journey to Space: The Exhibition, and includes a walk through a life-size model of the Destiny Lab. It runs through January 8.

For more information about OMSI, see their website: CLICK HERE to open their homepage.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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