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Astronaut lands at Maryland Science Center

What’s orbited the earth more than 500 times and is only visible in Baltimore?

OK, not much of a riddle but the answer is a spacesuit being presented to the Maryland Science Center this Friday by local astronaut Richard Arnold.

The suit traveled more than 5.3 million miles and orbited Earth more than 200 times while on board Space Shuttle Discovery during its March 2009 mission. The spacesuit was sent into space specifically for the Science Center and will be on display in the SpaceLink exhibition.

Arnold will also stick around Friday to give two, 20-minute presentations at 10:40 a.m. and 11:20 a.m. on the center’s demonstration stage and will answer questions and sign autographs from 12–12:30 p.m.

Arnold, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Bowie, has been a NASA mission specialist since 2004. In August 2007 he spent 10 days on the crew of NEEMO 13 working in and around Aquarius, the world’s only undersea laboratory.

I wonder how much buzz this demonstration will generate? Since APOLLO 17 in 1972, NASA’s last moon landing,  interest in space travel has been waning.

The 1969 moon landing was a political and technological statement for America. And it was tangible. I get the feeling NASA’s missions now are so far advanced and obscure — and sometimes faltering — that they’re almost not fit for mass consumption and understanding. Hopefully Arnold can put a face on what NASA’s purpose is today and why we should care about space travel and research.