Rock It, Science!

Take a rare glimpse inside one of NASA's space-research launch pads.

For the first time in nine years, science whizzes can step into the world's largest vacuum chamber. And if NASA's Plum Brook Station Open House doesn't get you psyched, your membership in the National Geek Society has been revoked. On a 6,400-acre piece of prime real estate in Sandusky, the agency houses five testing facilities that are responsible for some of the most sensitive parts of any rocket or satellite launched into space. "It's unusual, just because people will get a chance to see what they really do," says Sally Harrington, one of NASA's marketing mavens. On the daylong tour, a bus will shuttle you to three buildings, including the Space Power Facility, where a vacuum chamber tests the landing-bag system for the Mars Rover. In the Spacecraft Research Facility, you can fire the same test engines that scientists work on every day. And in the control room, the nation's top scientific minds operate ultra-sensitive machines that test high-powered engines indoors. And that's a spectacle that's not there to drool over at the agency's Cleveland site. "This isn't a repeat of what you can see at the NASA Glenn facility," says Harrington. "There's great history in the kinds of things that are done here and the things that are up in space." See for yourself between 11 a.m.and 7 p.m. today at the Plum Brook Station, 6100 Columbus Avenue in Sandusky. Admission is free. Call 216-625-1123 or visit
Sun., June 1, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., 2008