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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Calvert community invited to support new spaceflight museum

By Sara Newman, Staff Writer

The first meeting for the Spaceflight America Museum, opening in 2014 at the Arthur Storer Planetarium in Prince Frederick, will be Saturday, Oct. 5, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Northeast Community Center.

“We’re hoping people get an idea of what this museum will be,” said Alan Hayes, chairman and CEO of the museum and Volanz Aerospace Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. “We don’t have things like this in the county. … It will be a draw for students of all ages, families and tourists.”

Hayes, who also runs the Spaceflight Institute, a space- and science-themed summer camp, has been planning on opening a spaceflight museum since 2007.

Hayes, along with Sigmund Gorski, director of the Spaceflight  Institute, presented plans for the museum to the Calvert County Board of Education over the summer. The board approved the building of the museum because of the educational opportunities it presents.

George Leah Jr., director of school construction, worked with Hayes and the board to get final approval. As someone who witnessed the pinnacle of the space race growing up, he said, Leah is excited about the museum’s possibilities.

“[Hayes is] someone who’s willing to share what he knows with kids,” Leah said. “His excitement is really a great thing.”

Hayes, an enterprise architect who has worked with the Federal Aviation Administration for 21 years, started the institute with Gorski, who is retired from the FAA, in 1999. Both men loved learning about the space program growing up and remember being enamored teenagers while watching the first landing on the moon in 1969.

The two will present their plan for the museum, answer questions and discuss timeframes as well as the educational and volunteer opportunities available. Hayes said volunteers are crucial to make the museum a reality. So far, the only funding the museum has received has been through donations, sponsors and fundraising. Over the next 12 months, the team hopes to raise $200,000.

“We want to encourage people to help us out with the museum,” Hayes said. “Building a museum is not cheap.”

Sponsorship opportunities will also be discussed at the meeting. The museum’s first fundraiser will be Friday, Nov. 22, at the Northeast Community Center, where a dinner, raffle and silent auction will take place.