Adler Staff Star: Meet Andrew!

Dr. Andrew Johnston | July Adler Staff Star

Dr. Andrew Johnston
Vice President of Astronomy and Collections

As someone who has worked in museums for the past 30 years (WOW!), what has been the most rewarding experience for you?

I began working in science museums when I was a teenager, so I feel very lucky to have been working in this business all my life!  The most rewarding experiences have been here at the Adler connecting people and science and broadening access to science. This is a special place. Only the Adler Planetarium produces exhibitions and dome shows, does science in an engaging way, uses amazing history collections, offers hands-on engineering and telescope observing experiences, and more⁠—all under one roof! 

What is your favorite exhibition, sky show, or experience at the Adler? Why?

Right now I would say our new dome show Imagine the Moon. I’m proud of how it shows the Moon in a different way, by exploring how the Moon has evolved in our human imagination. It also connects to things guests can see in our Solar System gallery, Mission Moon exhibition, history collections, and all the great things we do around the Adler. 

The world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission this month. What makes this mission so significant?

This is the greatest story of human exploration because the Moon is something we all share. In most stories of exploration, people need to imagine the destination, such as a faraway continent or high-altitude mountaintop. In this case, everyone can see the destination with their own eyes. Just look up. The Moon is the most distant place ever visited by humans, but it’s also right there in the sky. 

What is the one space exploration mission you’d like to see happen in your lifetime? What excites you about it?

There are a couple of space missions I am looking forward to, including a flying robot going to Saturn’s moon Titan!  But if I could have anything I wanted, I would love to see lots of robots on the surface of Mars. The rovers that have been sent to Mars are fantastic. Now imagine if there were dozens or even hundreds of small rovers. Planetariums, museums, and schools could operate their own vehicles on Mars. Imagine what they could find! We probably won’t be able to bring millions of people to Mars any time soon, but maybe we could bring Mars to the people. 

Why, in your opinion, is space freaking awesome?

There is something very special about space and astronomy. Because it is literally “out there,” it takes us out of our everyday experiences. Taking our minds on a journey across the Universe requires thinking broadly about how we fit into the big picture, how we share the sky above. In the words of our founder Max Adler, all people “rich and poor, powerful and weak, as well as all nations, here and abroad, constitute part of one Universe and that, under the great celestial firmament, there is no division or cleavage but rather interdependence and unity.”

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