NASA's Artemis program has inspired a new exhibit and annual festival at the agency's Texas visitor center.
Space Center Houston debuted its aptly titled "Artemis" exhibit (opens in new tab) on Thursday (June 9), the same day that it launched "Moon2Mars," a one-day business conference and three-day public celebration highlighting emerging ideas and technologies that will transport humans to the moon, Mars and beyond.
"We are excited to provide people of all ages with access to the latest in space tech and to celebrate together as we look ahead at exploring more of the lunar surface and preparing to send astronauts to Mars," William T. Harris, president and chief executive officer of Space Center Houston, said in a statement. "Space City is known for driving innovation, and it's the home of Mission Control, so there's no better place to experience the latest in space exploration than at Space Center Houston."
Related: Facts about NASA's Artemis program
NASA's Artemis program has the goal of landing the next humans, including the first woman and first person of color, on the moon since the last Apollo astronauts (opens in new tab) stepped off the lunar surface 50 years ago. Working with its international and commercial partners, NASA plans to establish the first long-term presence on the moon to learn what is needed to send astronauts to Mars.
'We are going'
Space Center Houston's Artemis exhibit (opens in new tab) showcases the people and hardware that will make NASA's return to the moon possible.
Stepping under a large banner declaring "We are Going Back to the Moon," guests are invited to learn about how Artemis will fly to the moon and then explore what astronauts will do once they are there.
Children, in particular, can design their own Artemis mission patches (opens in new tab), share what they would bring with them on a trip to the moon and submit their questions about making the journey. Engineers and astronauts will answer selected questions, and their replies will be posted as part of the exhibit and on social media.
Visitors can also take their photo posing with an Orion spacecraft backdrop, get hands on with a 3D-printed model of a potential Artemis landing site, watch videos about the various aspects of the program and see a large illuminated globe of the moon suspended above their heads.
In addition, the Artemis exhibit features examples of an upper torso and portable life support system being developed by Collins Aerospace and ILC Dover as part of a newly awarded NASA contract for the spacesuits (opens in new tab) astronauts will wear on the moon.
'I wanna be an astronaut'
The Moon2Mars Festival (opens in new tab) builds off the new exhibit by offering even more Artemis technology displays, as well as family-friendly hands-on activities and an evening outdoor concert.
The festival began on Thursday with a one-day, invite-only conference offering industry representatives the chance to learn more about the opportunities being created by the Artemis program. Speakers addressed the needs for infrastructure on and off the moon, the robotic and crewed transports being built to move cargo and people between Earth and the lunar surface and the benefits to companies from the technology being developed for the Artemis missions.
Beginning on Friday and running through Sunday, the festival switches focus to the public, when guests can view Flex, a prototype lunar rover in a demonstration from Venturi Astrolab, or relax in the "Lunar Lounge" beer garden (the latter for visitors 21 years of age and older only).
On Friday and Saturday, the festival will end the day with a concert featuring performances by country singer Wade Bowen, pop-rock group American Authors and singer-songwriter Kate Toupin.
"It really is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime feeling to dance in front of rockets," said Toupin, whose song "Astronaut" served as the soundtrack for a campaign promoting the festival.
Toupin wrote and recorded the track after tapping into her childhood and "remembering that hopeful nature of anything is possible." She sings, "When I grow up I wanna be an astronaut, I'm gonna grow up and I'm gonna be an astronaut, gonna fly to space, save the human race, and do it all with a smile plastered on my face."
Taking the stage at Space Center Houston, she may perform with an astronaut or two in the audience.
"I would be starstruck to get to talk to somebody that is an astronaut," Toupin told collectSPACE.com. "I think that's pretty incredible and, again, a once in a lifetime sort of thing. This song for me, it's just the gift that keeps on giving. It's really special."