Middle School Theater Team Creates Space Flight Model For Planetarium

A team from the Franklin Middle School SGS/HSC Players Set Design Team created this model of the Friendship 7 Mercury capsule that took John Glenn around the Earth. Photo: Raritan Valley Community College.

Their work is generally not seen outside of the township, but this year the Franklin Middle School SGS/HSC Players Set Design Team created something that is literally out of this world.

Or at least it’s a pretty good facsimile.

Led by Somerset resident Bill Connell, the team created a model of the “Friendship 7” Mercury space capsule that took astronaut John Glenn around the earth in 1962.

The creation came at the request of another township resident, Amie Gallagher, who is the director of the Raritan Valley Community College Planetarium in Branchburg. Gallagher wanted the model to be a focal point for the planetarium’s displays about the country’s space program on the 50th anniversary of the United States sending a manned space flight to the moon.

Connell said he was happy to oblige his friend.

“I have always loved the space program,” he said. “I had flannel Apollo 11 pajamas with footsies. Mrs. Gallagher’s enthusiasm for stars and space travel is contagious and I wanted to help her.”

“Practically speaking, it was a challenge, cutting wood where you need to compensate for radius, angles and pitch all at the same time,” he said. “My friends through the theater program and neighbor helped me get it done.”

“Educationally speaking I learned all dimensions of the Mercury 7 and its rocket,” Connell said. “When you sit in the chair of the capsule, you really start to understand the bravery and audacity of our first space travelers. You can’t get that in a book.”

The capsule model is on display at the plnetarium, 118 Lamington Rd. in Branchbrug throughout the summer.

The RVCC Planetarium’s “Moon Day” from 1-5 p.m. July 20 celebrates the 50th anniversary of those “small steps for man” and “giant leap for mankind,” according to a press release from the college. It will feature a variety of hands-on lunar activities; an exhibit, “Many Inspired Steps,” describing the centuries of discoveries and accomplishments that led to rockets and trips to the Moon; and star shows exploring the Moon and space travel.

“Moon Day” activities are free of charge, but regular admission applies for the following Planetarium shows planned on July 20:

  • Earth, Moon, Sun, and Coyote, 2 p.m.: Coyote has a razor-sharp wit, but he’s a little confused about what he sees in the sky. Join this amusing character (adapted from Native American oral traditions) in a fast-paced and fun show that tells Native American stories; explores lunar phases, eclipses, and other puzzles; and examine how humans learn through space exploration. (Recommended for ages 8-12).
  • Astronaut, 3 p.m.: The exploration of space is the greatest endeavor that humankind has ever undertaken. But what does it take to become an astronaut? Experience a rocket launch from inside the body of “Chad,” a test astronaut. Then explore the amazing worlds of inner and outer space, from floating around the International Space Station to maneuvering through microscopic regions of the human body. The presentation is made possible with a grant from FirstEnergy Foundation. (Recommended for ages 10-adult)
  • First and Farthest, 4 p.m.: From the first rockets to the first man on the Moon, First and Farthest celebrates humanity’s great accomplishments in the Space Race. The show will bring back memories for those who remember the Space Race and inspire new generations to keep exploring our universe. With its discussion of science, technology, engineering and mathematical concepts, First and Farthest supports a STEM-focused curriculum. The presentation is made possible with a grant from NASA’s New Jersey Space Grant Consortium. (Recommended for ages 10-adult)

Planetarium tickets cost $10 for one show, $16 for two shows on the same day. For reservations and information, call 908-231-8805. For additional information and to see the full schedule of summer programs, visit www.raritanval.edu/planetarium.

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