SHANGHAI — An exhibition featuring NASA space suits and spacecraft models launched this weekend in a mall in Shanghai, giving shoppers a peek into the cosmos for the next two months.
American-Chinese cooperation on space matters has been a sensitive issue since the U.S. Congress banned NASA from working with its Chinese counterparts in 2011. NASA exhibitions such as 2011’s “A Human Adventure” regularly tour the world, but have never ventured onto the Chinese mainland.
“Neighborhood Earth” opened to the public on Saturday, just in time for the National Day holiday when most Chinese have a week off. The exhibition premiered in February at the NASA-affiliated U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama.
“China is our first stop,” said Andrew Turland, executive creative director at Chronica Creative, the Australian company that organized the exhibitions both in the U.S. and China. He told Sixth Tone on Friday that the show will tour four Chinese cities in one year, but that they have not yet decided on locations other than Shanghai.
The exhibition’s main attraction is a 360-degree hologram film which takes viewers on a half-hour, 30-billion-kilometer journey through the solar system, passing spacecraft such as NASA’s Cassini, which finished its mission orbiting Saturn in September.
“Neighborhood Earth” is shows Chinese audiences two two replicas of historical NASA space suits, one of which was used in the failed Apollo 13 mission of 1970. The other, the NASA Z-2, is a prototype that could be put into use during the forthcoming Mars program. A life-size space capsule will also be assembled in the following week.
In addition to the main exhibition, there is a small amusement park that incorporates virtual reality and allows children to explore what’s under the earth’s surface. “While maintaining the integrity of the U.S. exhibition, we added some interactive and educational features to localize the show for a Chinese audience,” said Yu Xiaoqin, CEO of Shanghai LinkA Culture Development Co. Ltd., the event’s Chinese co-organizer.
Befitting its change of venue from a museum to a mall, “Neighborhood Earth” has been given a commercial edge in Shanghai. It was brought to China on LinkA’s initiative, and the company expects to turn a profit. Tickets cost 70 yuan ($10.50), although discounts will be available for schools.
“We hope to show the development of technology through such exhibitions,” said Yu.
This article has been updated to clarify the relationship between “Neighborhood Earth” and NASA, which had been misstated in the event’s promotional materials.
Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: A promotional photo for the NASA Neighborhood Earth Exhibition (Shanghai) shows one of the display halls previously opened to the public. From the exhibition’s Weibo account)