Bishop Museum Planetarium Manager Mike Shanahan held a pair of the Hawaiian percussion instruments called pu'ili yesterday. Shanahan will be repeating experiments on Earth as U.S. astronaut Ed Lu performs identical experiments in the microgravity of the International Space Station. The whole affair will be connected via the Internet for the benefit of schoolchildren.

Bishop Museum to link
kids to space station

A research project will explore differences
in the environments of space and on Earth

This fall, a group of school kids will gather at the Bishop Museum to see how a glider and rubber band-launched paper airplanes fly and to play musical instruments like the bamboo pu'ili.

About 230 miles above them in the International Space Station, Hawaii astronaut Ed Lu and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko will duplicate in space what the kids are doing on Earth.

The kids and astronauts will be able to talk to each other and see each other via an Internet or satellite link.

Lu, 39, and Malenchenko, 41, took the glider (a model of the Wright brothers' plane), paper airplanes and pu'ili with them in a Russian Soyuz rocket that launched from Kazakhstan last night. It is the first manned flight to the space station since the U.S. space shuttle Columbia disaster on Feb. 1.

Lu did his postgraduate work at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy in 1995 when he was accepted as a NASA mission specialist. He considers Hawaii and Webster, N.Y., his two hometowns.

The experiments "give you an angle to explain how the environment in space is different and the same as on Earth," said Mike Shanahan, the Bishop Museum Planetarium manager.

The children will get to see if the flight of the glider and paper airplanes is different in low gravity than on Earth and if the instruments sound different in space than on Earth.

The Bishop Museum was one of three museums in the United States that have the experiments on board and one of five museums participating in the educational project. The experiments will also be videotaped and possibly made into an educational CD-ROM.

Each museum chose a regional musical instrument to go into space. In addition to the pu'ili, the astronauts are also carrying a harmonica for the St. Louis Science Center and a chicken shake, a kind of rattle, for the Maryland Science Center, Shanahan said.

The pu'ili was chosen because it is easy to play and because feathers and seeds in other Hawaiian instruments could break off and float into places that could interfere with the operation of the space station, Shanahan said.

Shanahan said he just learned yesterday morning that the experiments made it on board the Soyuz rocket.

He said the experiment was originally supposed to go on a space shuttle mission, but had to be rescheduled when the shuttle fleet was grounded after the Columbia tragedy.

To add to the uncertainty, the experiments had somehow been left behind in Moscow and had to be driven several hundred miles to Kazakhstan for the launch, Shanahan said.

Bishop Museum


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