Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tenn., will launch its latest temporary exhibit with a members-only sneak peek featuring Dr. Lawrence DeLucas, principal scientist at The Aerospace Corporation, in a program next week.

As a member of the seven-person crew of Space Shuttle Columbia for Mission "STS-50," called the United States Microgravity Laboratory-1 Spacelab mission, DeLucas traveled more than 6 million miles, completing 221 orbits of earth and logging over 331 hours in space. In 1994 and 1995, DeLucas served as chief scientist for the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

He received five degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham culminating in a Doctor of Optometry degree and holds a doctorate in Biochemistry. He also received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Ohio State University, Ferris State University, SUNY College of Optometry and the Illinois College of Optometry. He has published 164 peer-reviewed research articles in scientific journals, co-authored and edited several books on protein crystal growth and membrane proteins and is a co-inventor on 43 patents involving protein crystal growth, novel biotechnologies and structure-based drug design.

The launch event is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Jan. 16 and free for Discovery Park members. DeLucas will participate in a program in the Tennessee Room beginning at 6 p.m. with an autograph session to follow.

Another special guest, Jason Kelley, is expected to participate in the session and will be at Discovery Park on opening day, Jan. 17, to speak with students and other guests.

Kelley, who graduated from South Fulton High School in 2002 and holds a B.S. in Agricultural Economics with a Minor in Bio-Systems Engineering Technology from the University of Tennessee, works at Marshall Space Flight Center and provides support for NASA payload operations on board the ISS.

Kelley previously worked at U.S. Space & Rocket Center for Space Camp and Aviation Challenge as a team counselor and then a camp supervisor. He served on an Alabama Homeland Security project called Virtual Alabama while at the rocket center.

Teachers interested in attending one of the free programs with Kelley on Jan. 17 should contact Andrew Gibson at agibson@discoveryparkofamerica.com or 731-885-5455. Space is limited.

The exhibit, "Astronaut," opens to the public on Jan. 17. It allows guests to explore physical and mental challenges involved in space exploration and to discover what life is like outside Earth's atmosphere.

Located in the ATA Traveling Exhibit Hall, it features 26 different stations that demonstrate how life is lived in space with zero gravity. Guests can test their grip strength in gloves that mimic a pressurized spacesuit, or they can work together to launch their own space mission.

"As partners with parents and teachers in the region, I believe this exhibit enhances many of the science and STEAM lessons students are being taught in the classroom," stated Scott Williams, Discovery Park of America president and CEO. "Opening it with special guests like Dr. Lawrence DeLucas and Jason Kelley allows us to celebrate and inspire passion for science in a fun and unique way."

The Discovery Park education team has space-related programs to offer school groups when they visit. There is a school and visitors guide available online that covers key messages and learning opportunities included throughout the exhibit, as well as projects that can be done at home or in the classroom before or after a visit.

The exhibit will be open to the public from Jan. 17 to May 3.

Tickets are $6.95, in addition to the price of admission to Discovery Park. Pricing of $4.95 is available for students in groups. For more information or field trip booking, educators should call 731-885-5455 or email reservations@discoveryparkofamerica.com.

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