Voyage project in Broken Arrow puts space in perspective

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Pat Smith from the Voyage Project talks with the city of Broken Arrow.

Source: City of Broken Arrow

Understanding the vastness of the Milky Way galaxy is a challenge from a textbook, computer screen, or museum for even the brightest students.

But comprehending its expanse just became a little easier for everyone in Broken Arrow with the completion of the VOYAGE Solar System Walkway.

The exhibition is a 1 to 10-billion-scale solar system model and is now on permanent display on Albany Street between 9thStreet and 23rd Street.

Families, students, and casual walkers can stroll along the path, learn about the planets, and get a mental image of the magnitude of space.

The Voyage Exhibit is on a 2,000-foot-long walking path beginning with the Sun at Creekwood Elementary and ending with Pluto at Broken Arrow High School. It’s one of only seven full-scale exhibits located in Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Missouri, Houston, Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas, Palo Alto, California, and Boulder, Colorado.

“The City was approached about collaborating on a project that involved the solar system,” Streets and Stormwater Director Rocky Henkel said. “We installed the stanchions and made sure they were level and provided the construction expertise.”

There are thirteen attractive 95-inch-tall aluminum stanchions with details about each planet and the sun. Each stanchion also features a QR code so the visibly impaired can hear an audible reading of the information provided about each planet.

The city also constructed the footings and the concrete pads.

Bringing the exhibit to Broken Arrow was a 25-year project for a group of retired educators, according to former Broken Arrow teacher Pat Smith.

The concept for the exhibit came from Dr. Jeff Goldstein, Director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education Institute and the Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education.

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In the summer of 1995, Goldstein spoke at a conference at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and presented a program he was sponsoring that would bring nationally recognized scientists and astronomers to underserved populations to inspire students.

Former Broken Arrow teacher Judy Adair encouraged Goldstein to bring his scientists to Broken Arrow.

Goldstein traveled to Broken Arrow several times bringing other noted scientists with him for evening science presentations. He visited Broken Arrow more than any other city.

At that time, he discussed building an expansive scale model of the solar system. The first was placed at the National Mall in 2002, and the Broken Arrow Voyager installation was finished in late June 2022.

A team of 10-12, mostly retired teachers, raised the $50,000 necessary for the project through word of mouth, donations from individuals, the help of local businesses, Facebook, the Broken Arrow Rotary Club, and a GoFundMe account.

Smith says the whole community came together to fund this project.

“There were many people who made this project possible,” Smith said. “I have to credit the entire City of Broken Arrow, and we could not have had a better partner.”

Henkel said the project was an excellent opportunity for collaboration with community partners.

“Anytime we have an opportunity to work together on a project, especially with the school district, we’re always willing to lend a helping hand because the outreach that we have to our citizens is greater when entities work together,” Henkel said.

Smith concluded by encouraging everyone in the region to come and experience the exhibit. A ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate its completion is scheduled for September 13.



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