Located in Salt Lake City, the Hansen Planetarium is just too far away for some Utah students and classes to visit.
It's 36 miles from Ogden, 54 miles from Brigham City and 80 miles from Logan. However, if you can't go to the planetarium, some of it can visit you.That's the idea behind the Hansen Planetarium's 10-year-old outreach program in which dozens of schools in northern Utah get a special visit each year. Thanks to Utah's Thiokol Propulsion Group, acting on behalf of the Thiokol Foundation, that program will be expanding this month and next fall.
Thiokol, manufacturer of the solid rocket boosters that help the space shuttles thunder into outer space, donated another $10,000 to the planetarium's outreach program Monday morning during a special one-hour program at Uintah Elementary School.
Robert Crippen, president of the Thiokol Propulsion Group, made the presentation. The former astronaut with 26 years experience - including as co-pilot of the first-ever space shuttle flight - was a favorite with students.
"We at Thiokol support the Hansen Planetarium," Crippen said. "We think for students to learn about science is important."
He said science and mathematics are keys that will open new doors of opportunity in today's complex world.
According to Sarah George, who heads the planetarium's outreach program, the donation means the outreach program can visit at least another 13 schools during the end of this school year and into the next year.
"What we do is demonstrate concepts," she said.
Whether it's shooting off rockets or using a Van de Graaff generator, this is the stuff that makes science books come alive. This is the planetarium's version of the "Magic School Bus."
Planetarium spokeswoman Patti Carpenter said it's actually a Chevy Astrovan the program uses to take its show on the road. The presentation is a highlight of the year for all of the 20 schools it will visit this year and next.
"It's for kids of all ages, kindergarten through sixth grade," she said, explaining it is especially meaningful for sixth-graders because they study the solar system.
After the $10,000 presentation, students were treated to an almost one-hour demonstration of various scientific principles, much of it interactive.
Planetarium curator of education Richard Cox demonstrated electric charges, magnetic attraction and other basic scientific principles to several hundred Uintah students.
Thiokol has been the planetarium's main supporter of the outreach program for the past six years, donating thousands of dollars.
More information on the program is available by calling 531-4926.