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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Culture > Books > Bridging the fantasy and facts of space travel

Bridging the fantasy and facts of space travel

An aerospace research scientist creates a Mayan tale to introduce young readers to the magic and science of space exploration.

LatinaLista — Space exploration. The topic has been so romanticized and sensationalized on the big and little screens that when it comes to the real thing most people channel surf right past TV images of a live rocket launch or space shuttle landing.

As such, science teachers have a hard time competing with science fiction special effects to get their students interested in the real science of space exploration. Yet, one scientist hopes to show that the adventure of exploring the universe is still a fantasy to be fulfilled.

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Dr. Dora Musielak, an aerospace research scientist and veteran author, has written a book that is equal parts “science fantasy,” and astronomy textbook.

Kuxan Suum: Path to the Center of the Universe (AuthorHouse 2008) begins with the tale of a Mayan princess named Da’Lau whose curiosity about the stars and planets takes her on a magical journey. Mixing the tale with real Mayan terms and factual scientific explanations, Dr. Musielak grounds the fantasy in a reality that doesn’t take away from the magic that readers expect while exploring the pages.

However when the story-telling part of the book ends, Dr. Musielak bridges the fantasy and the factual with pages filled with other-worldly images taken by the Hubble Space telescope.

Hoping that the mysterious pictures from space trigger a natural curiosity in students, Dr. Musielak poses a series of questions to readers to jumpstart the final section where she addresses everything from the Big Bang theory of how the universe was born to Black Holes, hyper-light travel, the engineering behind rocket science and what it must be like to live in space.

The 76-page soft cover book also contains a glossary of astronomical terms, a list of suggested readings and a couple of pages of online sites that cater to space exploration and astronomy.

At a companion web site for the book, Dr. Musielak features in-depth sections on Mayan astronomy in both English and Spanish with promises of a Spanish version of the book forthcoming.

While the book could benefit from some illustrations depicting the Mayan princess tale, the rest of the book serves as a good launch pad in igniting imaginations to wonder, explore and seek answers to the question that has haunted humanity since the dawn of times — are we alone in the universe?

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