Saturday, October 9, 2004

Big weekend may boost science museum

By Jay Cohen
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Time has not dulled the adventurous spirit of Kathryn Sullivan, the former astronaut who runs the struggling COSI interactive science museum.

Sullivan, who 20 years ago Monday became the first American woman to make a spacewalk, leaves her office on her most difficult days to watch kids play in her museum's exhibits, which had to be reduced by 20 percent recently because of a failed tax request.

People who know Sullivan say the woman who is helping NASA redesign its spacesuit and was chosen by four presidents for national science positions is the right person to lead the museum out of its slump.

"I'm sure she can do that," said Dave Leestma, who partnered with Sullivan on the 1984 spacewalk. "She's very motivated and is a very, very confident person."

Sullivan, 53, logged more than 532 hours in space during her three missions, but her most famous feat was her 1984 spacewalk.

She floated outside the shuttle for seven hours tethered with a pliable metal line while demonstrating that a satellite can be refueled in space.

"Kathy's terrific, a hard worker," said Leestma, manager of the exploration programs office at the Johnson Space Center. "She was as ready as anyone could be to do that spacewalk."

Leestma and other former astronauts will participate in ceremonies this weekend honoring Sullivan and the spacewalk anniversary.

Leestma, Sally Ride and John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth and a former U.S. senator from Ohio, are scheduled to speak at COSI events. Sullivan and Ride, the first American woman in space, will be recognized before the Ohio State-Wisconsin football game today at Ohio Stadium.

The big weekend couldn't come at a better time for Sullivan or COSI, which stands for the Center of Science and Industry.

Sullivan was forced to lay off almost 70 people and close COSI two days a week after Franklin County voters rejected a levy that would have generated about $12 million a year and provided free admission to county residents.

The science center also closed exhibits on computers, the solar system and adventure, hoping to use the space to entice a tenant to share the facility.

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