The Parkland College Blog

Small Satellites Subject of November Kaler Science Lecture

UI's Michael Lambeck to discuss designing CubeSats for LASSI

When Sputnik launched and shocked the world in 1957, many claimed to be able to see the basketball-sized satellite in orbit. Over the decades, satellites grew ever larger and can now be visible in the night sky, but engineers such as Dr. Michael Lembeck are making strides with satellites scaled back to Sputnik's size. He will present his work along with a history of satellite designs for the James Kaler Science Lecture Series at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium.

Dr. Lembeck, director of the Laboratory for Advanced Space Systems at Illinois (LASSI), will give a talk titled, "What goes 'round, comes 'round…the story of how small satellites are making big news" on Friday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. Admission is $2 at the door with Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium admitted free of charge.

Dr. Lembeck's work with LASSI includes designing and assembling spacecraft the size of a breadbox called CubeSats. Since most weigh less than 10 pounds, several can included as a secondary mission in rocket launches. Their size allows them to be built by universities, military, commercial, and amateur organizations. Over 1000 CubeSats have been launched in the last 20 years, including two to Mars.

Dr. Lembeck has led or worked on multiple government and commercial spaceflight programs, including JPL’s Galileo Jupiter Orbiter, Space Industries, Inc.’s Wake Shield Facility, Orbital Sciences’ OrbView/Warfighter commercial remote sensing program, and the Northrop/Boeing CEV and Boeing commercial crew programs. As the Requirements Division Director for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Dr. Lembeck participated in the formulation of President George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration and managed the original development of requirements for the Constellation/Orion program. Dr. Lembeck is an Associate Fellow of the AIAA and a Professor of Practice in the University of Illinois’ Aerospace Engineering Department.

After the presentation by Dr. Lembeck, the Staerkel Planetarium will show the full-dome feature, "Dark Matter Mystery" at 8 p.m. The 2019 premiere of "Santa's Secret Star" begins on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets for regular programs range from $5 to $6 per person. For a full show schedule, visit the planetarium website or call 217/351-2446.

"Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future" Film Screening

Planetarium, gallery to co-host documentary of "Father of Modern Space Art"

Film Screening: Wednesday, October 9, 7 p.m., William M. Staerkel Planetarium
Free theremin performance featuring Gloria Roubel and Jason Finkelman: October 9, 6:15 to 6:45 p.m., planetarium lobby
Trailer: Available at

What do the Chrysler Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, the film "Destination Moon" and America's space program all have in common? They were each touched by the creative vision of a little known artist named Chesley Bonestell.

The William M. Staerkel Planetarium and Giertz Gallery at Parkland College will present the film screening "Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future" Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. at the planetarium. This award-winning documentary about the "Father of Modern Space Art" explores Bonestell’s impact on America’s enthusiasm for space that began as early as the 1940s and grew into a national phenomenon in the 1950s and 1960s.

Bonestell (1888-1986) inspired us to get to the moon by the use of his paintbrush. His mesmerizing depiction of "Saturn As Seen From Titan" became known as "the painting that launched a thousand careers." His visionary paintings and illustrations in science magazines, books and science fiction movies inspired and continues to inspire scientists, artists, architects, engineers and sci-fi enthusiasts alike.

This documentary chronicles the extraordinary, nine-decade life of this quiet, artistic visionary, whose beautiful paintings continue to inspire us to reach for the stars. It includes interviews with people who were influenced by or knew Chesley personally and is punctuated with rare interview footage of Chesley. 

Adult admission is $10 and children, students, and seniors are $8.

The planetarium is located on the west side of Parkland College's campus; the M1 parking lot is closest to the planetarium. A drop-off circle drive is located south of the M1 parking lot between the theatre and the planetarium. Call 217/351-2446 for a current schedule or visit the planetarium website. 

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency and through Student Life at Parkland College. Partial funding also provided by Student Life and the Division of Arts and Sciences at Parkland College.

Parkland is a section 504/ADA-compliant institution. For accommodation, call 217/353-2338.

[Chesley Bonestell paintings courtesy of Bonestell LLC]

Parkland Students, Alumni to Present Research at Science Talk

"Nature and Nurture" to feature environmental impacts on genes

Current and former Parkland College students who took part in a scientific research program last summer will present their findings during the first of the season's James B. Kaler Science Lectures at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium next month.

Their talk, "Nature and Nurture: Examining How Diverse Organisms Adapt to Changes in their Everyday Environment," will take place Friday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. Admission is $2 at the door with Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium admitted free of charge.

The students conducted research as part of the 2019 Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students (PRECS) program, a collaboration between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Parkland College and funded by the National Science Foundation. Phenotypic plasticity is a phenomenon in which changes in physical appearance or behavior occur in genes in response to environmental conditions.

Current Parkland student Isiah Ramos investigated the link between respiratory infections and the worsening of multiple sclerosis symptoms. Erinn Dady, a Parkland graduate and a current UIUC student, studied how plants responded to caterpillars eating their leaves and how their responses may be affected by the root associations they share with fungi. Parkland graduate Justina Lee, also a current UIUC student, monitored the impact of THC on rat behavior, specifically on their anxiety levels.

Following the presentation, the Staerkel Planetarium will show the fulldome feature, "Dark Matter Mystery" at 8 p.m. Tickets for regular programs range from $5 to $6 per person. For a full schedule, call the show hotline at 217/351-2446 or visit

[Image: Parkland students and alumni present research as part of Kaler Science Series.]

Area youth ages 14 to 17 are invited to participate in fun, hands-on forensic science exploration at Parkland College next month.

The CSI Experience, an eight-day summer camp, will run June 17–27 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Note: Parkland College will be closed on Fridays during this time).

This camp is designed as an immersive mystery: During the two weeks, camp participants will assume the identity of a crime scene investigation character and will work with real forensic experts, law enforcement, and media professionals to collect and analyze evidence, find the culprit, and inform the public. Attending youth receive real-world experience with equipment used in the forensic and media fields. Lunch will be provided daily for camp participants.

Parkland’s CSI Experience will culminate with a scavenger hunt for missing artifacts and the presentation of the participants’ findings. Parents will be invited to attend the presentations, held on June 27 at 1:30 p.m. in Room D244.

Students turning age 14 by Sept. 1 are eligible to enroll in the CSI Experience. To register a student by June 12, or to learn more about the experience, visit or call 217/351-2235.

Staerkel Planetarium Celebrates Apollo 11

Summerlong displays and presentations mark the 1969 Moon landing

On July 21, 1969, at 10:56:15 p.m. EDT, Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon with the now famous words: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

The William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College will celebrate the 50th anniversary of that Apollo 11 Moon mission with the following displays and presentations.

"Many Inspired Steps" Exhibit
"Many Inspired Steps" tells the story of the Moon mission: the mythology of Icarus flying to close to the Sun and his wax wings melting; the conquest of the air in the 20th century; the conquest of space; of course, the triumph of Apollo 11; and much more. The pictorial display was organized by Thomas A. Lesser (who has donated the exhibition) and is distributed by Audio Visual Imagineering, Inc. (which has donated the distribution of the exhibition to the Staerkel Planetarium). It is displayed on the wall in the hallway leading to the M-wing corridor.
Saturn V, Apollo, Moon/Earth Displays
Visitors can view a Lego model of the Saturn V rocket (on loan from the Thomas-Stagg family), a Moon globe showing all six Apollo landing sites, and a to-scale model of the Earth and Moon.
Apollo 11 Memories Bulletin Board
A bulletin board where visitors can share their memories of that evening in July, 1969, is available for use.
The public is also invited to email their remembrances of the Apollo 11 moment as well. Send memories to Memory submissions should include a first name and where that person was living in 1969; planetarium staff will post them on the memory bulletin board (minus any contact information).
"Summer Prairie Skies"
June 14–September
The annual planetarium show "Summer Prairie Skies" will include a simulation of the final eight minutes of the first lunar landing including actual audio from the lunar module. In addition, the entire dome will be turned into the command module control panel. "Summer Prairie Skies" premieres at 7 p.m. on June 14 and will be presented each Friday through September. Admission is $6 for adults and $5 for students, seniors, and kids under the age of 12.
"Dawn of the Space Age"
June 7–August
Beginning Friday, June 7, the planetarium will premiere the fulldome movie "Dawn of the Space Age." From the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, to the magnificent lunar landings and privately-operated space flights, patrons will be immersed and overwhelmed with this accurate historic reconstruction of humankind's first forays into space. Admission is $6 for adults and $5 for students, seniors, and kids under the age of 12. Special doubleheader rates apply.

  • Retiring Staerkel Planetarium Director Dave Leake will take a look back at the mission of Apollo 11 in a talk for the Champaign-Urbana Astronomical Society during its regular meeting on July 11 at 7 p.m. The public is invited free of charge. 

  • See the Apollo 11 landing site in the "Sea of Tranquility" during free public open houses at the Prairie Winds Observatory, operated by the CU Astronomical Society. All sessions begin at 8 p.m. and are weather-permitting on June 8, July 6 and August 3.  For a full schedule of planetarium programs and events, call the show hotline at 217/351-2446 or visit more information on the CU Astronomical Society, visit

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