Revisiting the old rockets

Posted by Bill Andrews
on Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To most people (including my wife), this is what Puerto Rico is all about. Liz Andrews photo
Apart from visiting the world-famous Arecibo Observatory on our recent vacation to Puerto Rico, my wife and I made sure to hit the more typical vacation spots too, like the rain forest and beaches. But, because I hadn’t been back to my hometown in 16 years, we also made sure to visit my old neighborhood, and even the old house (it was, of course, smaller than I remembered). Most importantly, though, we saw that a nearby attraction was still up and running.

El Parque de las Ciencias Luis A. Ferre, or Luis A. Ferre Science Park (though I’ve only heard the park referred to without his name), sits less than 2 miles away from my childhood home in Bayamón, and I used to go all the time as a kid. Even though I was naturally into science, and especially space — with the near-requisite dream of one day becoming an astronaut — I’m sure this park helped fuel my interests. A number of rockets tower over the park’s entrance, models of some of the biggest NASA ever sent up. A nearby flight simulator often created 20-minute lines, but it was always worth it. Finally, an air-conditioned building nearby housed the park’s astronomy and aeronautics museum, where I spent countless hours cooling off and absorbing info about the solar system, galaxies, and space exploration. There were other sites to see at the park, but I always hit the space-themed ones first, even though I already knew them inside and out.

But to me, Bayamón’s Science Park is at least as memorable as any beach on the island. And not just because of the reading it inspires. Bill Andrews photo
Seeing everything again after 16 years was, of course, pretty strange. Just watching as the rockets popped up in the distance as we approached the park brought back long-forgotten memories. The flight simulator was closed for repairs, and the museum wasn’t quite as air conditioned as I remembered, but overall it was still great. Not only did I get to relive part of my childhood, but it was wonderful to see such a fantastic amount of space science still on display and — more importantly — still attracting crowds.

The other science attractions include an anthropology museum, a small-scale zoo, and a telecommunications exhibit hall, among a few others. For some reason, the park also added a museum of art and a museum devoted to popular island comedian Joaquin Monserrat, aka “Pacheco.” Of them all, the astronomy museum appeared to be the second most popular during our visit, right after the central playground, which was always among my favorites growing up, too.

While it’s not as big or well-kept as I recalled, the science park still inspires kids with the awesomeness of space, just as it did me back then. I didn’t actually get to be an astronaut, but I’ve often said working at Astronomy is the second best thing. I hope the museum stays for a long time, inspiring future astronauts and magazine editors alike.

Have you ever been to el Parque de las Ciencias Luis A. Ferre? Are there any memorable science exhibits or museums that influenced your childhood? Did you grow up and actually become an astronaut? Let me know in the comments section below.

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