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"Firsts" for the Rice / Houston Museum of Natural Science Partnership

  • First NSF-funded teacher research program in Astronomy and Earth Science: 1988-91 (teacher alumni of that program included the Director of Science at HISD, head of Challenger Center at George Observatory, and many other talented master teachers).
  • First meter-class telescope dedicated to the public: George Observatory, and still the largest public telescope within one hour of 5 million people. Also collaborated to get state law passed to protect dark skies near observatories.
  • First sundial with holes to project a solar image at equinoxes and solstices: 1989 "Cockrell Sundial"
  • First internet-accessible but safe (non-html) online museum exhibit, Shoemaker-Levy 9, 1994. HMNS has had Rice-Developed, internet-accessible earth and space science exhibits ever since, with more than two million in-person users. Was developed under NASA's FIRST Cooperative Agreement Notice, that also funded Google!
  • First educational software (on CD-Rom) to allow safe (non-html) access to online realtime earth and space science data: Space Update, 1996. (Followed by Earth Update, Space Weather, and Mars Update). Over 300,000 in the field, sold or given away free to teachers.
  • First network of museums for Earth science: Museums Teaching Planet Earth, 1998 Winner of first two NASA Cooperative Agreement Competitions: ESIP and REASoN
  • Charter member, Earth Science Information Partners, 1998 (www.esipfed.org); Cooperating with: NOAA, DLESE, NSDL, Museum Visualization Alliance, and others
  • First fullview immersive digital theater in the U.S., 1998 (Burke Baker Planetarium) First fullview show: "Cosmic Mysteries" (Dec 1998) Upgraded theater to fulldome in 2000 (6 projectors instead of 4)
  • First fullview Earth Science production for immersive digital theaters: Powers of Time, 1999
  • First fulldome Earth and Space Physics show for immersive digital theaters Force 5, 2000. Additional shows completed: Future Moon, 2002; Saturn: the Ring World, 2004; Secrets of the Dead Sea, 2004; Earth’s Wild Ride, 2005; Dinosaur Prophecy, 2006; Night of the Titanic, 2007; Impact Earth, 2008; Force 5, 2010; Impact! (plus many more other HMNS shows) – https://www.eplanetarium.com/shows.php
  • First single-projector, immersive portable digital theater: Discovery Dome, 2003 (now in 350+ locations, 36 states, 36 countries – including first digital planetarium in East Africa). Spinoff distribution company: MTPE, Inc (www.discoverydome.com) (user map http://tinyurl.com/discdome )
  • First fulldome show DVD flown in space (on STS-123 by Takao Doi), 2008
  • First fisheye lens flown in space (still up on the ISS; launched 2009), footage used in "We Choose Space" and "Great Planet Adventures"

The following products were developed for Discovery Dome by our partner Avela Corp with our help in design, testing, and distribution:

  • First standup, easy-access portable inflatable dome with an airlock: Go-Dome, 2004
  • First dual-mirror portable projection system: Newtonian-1, 2007
  • First coated front-surface convex mirror for dome: Go-Vex, 2010
  • First semipermanent inflatable dome: Zodiac Dome, 2010
  • First negative pressure geodesic dome: Geo-Go-Dome, 2014

Carolyn Sumners (HMNS) statistics

Vice President for Astronomy and Physical Science, Houston Museum of Natural Science and Adjunct Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University

  • Invented the "Challenger Center" Concept (many millions of children around the world)
  • Taught all the early astronauts celestial navigation
  • More than a million students taught in person
  • Thirty plus fulldome digital planetarium shows produced (wrote all scripts)
  • "Woman on the Move", 1998
  • Many teaching and service awards
  • "Top 100" Irish Americans, 2001
  • Outstanding Professional Service Award from the Metropolitan Association for Teachers of Science

Patricia Reiff (Rice University) statistics

Professor, Physics and Astronomy Dept; Founding Director, Rice Space Institute, Currently the Associate Director for Outreach

  • Fellow, American Geophysical Union, 1997
    • "Athelstan Spilhaus" award from AGU for lifetime achievement in public outreach, 2009
    • "Space Physics and Aeronomy Richard Carrington Award" for outreach, 2013.
  • "Woman on the Move", 1990
  • Created "Master of Science Teaching" Program (30 MST alumni plus 3 current students)
  • Elected to Cosmos Club, 1992
  • Twelve science PhD graduates plus 3 MS and four Post-doctoral students
  • NASA Group Achievement Awards for Polar, IMAGE, Cluster
  • Co-Investigator on DE, Polar, IMAGE, Cluster and MMS missions (space plasma physics)
  • E/PO lead on MMS Mission; co-lead on IMAGE and Cluster missions
  • PI, "The Public Connection"; "Museums Teaching Planet Earth"; "Immersive Earth"
  • President and CEO, MTPE, Inc. and Space Update, Inc. (Spinoff companies marketing Rice and Museum-developed products).
  • Head of Local organizing committee, Sally Ride Science Festival – Houston. Now called "Reach for the Stars STEM Festival". Brings 1000+ middle school girls to Rice for hands-on science workshops annually plus street fair. Keynote speaker 2006: Sally Ride. Keynote speaker 2007: Eileen Collins, with video greeting from Peggy Whitson, ISS commander. Keynote speaker 2008: Peggy Whitson; 2009: Ellen Ochoa; 2010: Wendy Lawrence; 2011: Catherine Coleman; 2012: Wendy Lawrence; 2013: Barbara Morgan. 2014: Catherine Coleman; 2015: Wendy Lawrence; 2018: Peggy Whitson.