Well, we managed it :) As an almost last minute decision we decided to go to the National Space Centre in Leicester, a few weeks ago we went to a Live Action Role Playing (LARP) event in Leicester and saw some signs. We've often wondered about going, but it seemed a long way to go and an expensive place to get into.
But we've been at home for a long time - lots of tired people, ill people, bad weather and other things have meant we just haven't "gone out" for ages. Besides all that J is doing a project about our solar system, so it even works as an educationally appropriate event :)
As I said, it looks like an expensive day out for six people, but it didn't work out that way :) L counts as a child, even though he is 15 and taller than me, and my husband and I were allowed to go in as "personal assistants" for M and J, meaning we got in free.
From the outside it doesn't look particularly awesome. Tucked away on a housing estate, looking a bit more like an industrial unit than a museum, our initial impression was that maybe we had wasted the journey.
We needn't have worried though - the inside bares no resemblance to the exterior, and the trip was well worth it :)
The ground floor is divided into various galleries, there are a lot of interactive exhibits, and lots that you don't need to read extensively to understand. That last part was crucial as M and J scattered and A was able to be pretty self sufficient. There is enough detail in the info panels that L was intrigued and interested, but not so much he had trouble with word density.
M and J disappearing was a bit of an issue - there were lots of school parties around, and the number of bodies milling about made it hard to keep track of the more random members of the family. Thankfully everything is open plan enough that there were only two or three times we properly lost track of the boys, and even those were mercifully short.
The galleries were well planned, and themed so that everything made sense, the first was about space travel, the second about observing the skies, the third about the effect of various things on Earth (though that might have been a subsection of the last gallery) and the final one was about the planets individually.
A separate area followed the space race, with rockets and video clips, lost of time lines and ephemera to anchor the events in their time periods. Once the school parties had left there was a lot of time spent exploring what happened when, and L was surprised to trace the history of rockets back through WWII to Germany.
We also watched a planetarium show - We are Aliens - which was very well produced and I was hoping would deal with a few long running "debates" we have . . . Sadly, all it did was make M join the debate!
L has often complained that we are looking "out there" for life that resembles our own. The fact that the search focuses on looking for water and oxygen, and assumes a carbon based life form, seems ridiculous to him. He feels that different evolutionary pressures, a different atmosphere, a different beginning point could all lead to life that looks like nothing we've ever seen before. To a great extent I agree, but I also see that if we are going to "look" then the scientists need to start somewhere. So, the debate rumbles on. And on. I almost wish "we" would find carboniferous life out there just to stop the wittering!
So, in conclusion, we had fun :) with the exception of loosing a couple of children for brief spells, and a couple of meltdowns, the day worked very well. Much better than it looks from the outside and worth the money :)