Space and Flight month at Discovery Park ends with bang

Pictured are Captain Robert “Hoot” Gibson (Astronaut), Martha Rippy, Jim Rippy (DPA CEO) and Dr. Rhea Seddon (Astronaut).  This picure is a picture of the astronauts presenting to Discovery Park of America a collage of pictures representing the eight space shuttle missions that they have been on during their career as astronauts.  NASA would not let them fly on the same shuttle, since they are husband and wife.  Gibson flew four times and Seddon flew three times.  Gibson and Seddon entertained approximately 220 people at a special “Dine with the Astronaut” dinner that Discovery Park of America hosted as part of its Space and Flight month this January.

UNION CITY, TN- David Haggard and his “birds of prey” demonstration provided the grand finale for what has been a month long series of events at Discovery Park of America in Union City, TN, bringing more than 15,000 visitors through the doors.  January was designated Space and Flight month at Discovery Park.  “We have been amazed,” said CEO Jim Rippy.  “For over 15,000 people to come to Discovery Park in the coldest, dreariest, iciest month of the year is just phenomenal!”

Discovery Park of America, this nation’s newest attraction, costing over one hundred million dollars and opening November 1st of 2013, has already had over 55,700 visitors in this rural northwest Tennessee region.  “I really think we have Diane Bell to thank for what has happened in January,” Rippy explained.  “Because of her relationship with astronauts Robert “Hoot” Gibson and Dr. Rhea Seddon, they not only donated their flight suits, but also gave of their time to conduct several speaking engagements and meet the public at Discovery Park to help champion our cause.”  Once the astronauts were on board, the month long event just snowballed.

Bell, local Aero Space Instructor from Troy, TN, said that she attributes the success to the generosity and kindness of astronauts Gibson and Seddon.  “This all happened because Hoot and Rhea are such wonderful people,” she said.

“Dine with the Astronauts” was the first event planned, according to Event Director Melissa Caldwell.  But, once the staff got involved, the month long list of activities grew to include  Janet’s Planets; a temporary space display, which will continue until February 6th; “star gazing” with Dr. Lionel Crews, helicopter rides provided by local pilot Mike Rinker, who also did an aerial demonstration; numerous lectures and other various activities.  “We had something going on every weekend, and many weekends we had multiple activities, “Caldwell said.  “They were all extremely well attended, with standing room only in some cases.”

Discovery Park officials are busy planning a big “Grand Opening” month long series of events for May, followed by a summer concert series, a fried food festival, a 4th of July firework display, a pumpkin festival, and other events and festivities.  “As we finalize events and activities, there will be information available on our website,” Caldwell said.

Discovery Park of America is open 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 Tuesday through Sunday.  It is a unique blend of history and technology, knowledge and fun.  To find out more about Discovery Park of America, visit the website at

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