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In news that will make many a parent rejoice, Canberra’s much-loved national institution Questacon will reopen this week after closing its doors in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But before you scoop up the kids for a day of interactive play this school holidays, organisers want you to know things will be a little different (or, ahem, out of this world to be exact.)
In place of the usual Questacon experience, where visitors can move at their own pace through the interactive galleries, will be an exciting ticketed 90-minute pre-booked tour experience, Questacon Mission to Mars.
Aimed at ages six and up, the guided tour is a mix of theatre and exhibition, where visitors are guided by staff (or “Questanauts”) through selected galleries around the Centre to enjoy a range of immersive activities designed to experience life on Mars.
The tour includes an investigation of the differences between Mars and Earth, finding out what the surface and atmosphere of Mars would feel like (including its famous red sky) and experiencing a “marsquake.” There will also be plenty of time to marvel at Questacon’s new installation – the only seven-metre Mars globe in the Southern Hemisphere.
Questacon’s senior manager of learning experiences Anita Beck says the response to the reopening has been “amazing,” with the school holiday sessions booking out in just fifteen minutes.
“We’ve had a fantastic response to the test sessions we held for members, one family says it felt like they were really stepping onto Mars—so everybody has been really engaged,” Anita says.
“What’s really great too is because there is a high staff ratio and groups of only fifteen at the moment, there is more time for audience members to chat with staff and ask any questions about Mars and the journey to get there.”
While sessions for the school holidays have sold out, there is availability from August onwards. A similar tour tailored to a younger audience (three to five-year-olds) will also be available after the school holidays, with more information to come soon.
Anita says she isn’t sure as to when Questacon will return to “business as usual” given the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“For us every exhibit is hands-on and we couldn’t maintain social distancing with the amount of people we receive, so to open as normal just wasn’t the way we were able to do things yet to maintain everyone’s safety,” she says.
Either way, there’s no doubt Questacon’s temporary closure reaffirmed its importance as an outlet for curious minds of all ages.
“We are wonderfully privileged to have a relationship with families and kids in Canberra particularly those who just keep coming back,” Anita says.
“While we have still been delivering lots of digital content to local and national audiences during the closure, the energy in the building just isn’t the same without the public so it’s really exciting to have visitors back.”
What: Questacon Mission to Mars
Where: Questacon, King Edward Terrace, Parkes
When: Blasting off daily from 8 July onwards, with sessions between 9.30 – 3.30. Pre-booking by at least 4pm on the day prior to your visit is essential. With a limited capacity of 15 people per session, tickets may sell out quickly. Due to contact tracing requirements, bookings cannot be accepted on the day or at the door.
How much: $10 for children 0-16 or $15 for ages 16+ (all members $10.)