Planetarium curator retires after 40 years at Lafayette Science Museum



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A crimson rocket, no larger than a bottle of soda, was crammed with vinegar and baking soda. Rigorously inserting it on a flat floor, 8-year-old Dave Hostetter slowly backed away from the rocket, holding on rigorously to the hooked up string. 

After a minute of ready, he pulled the string and watching the plastic rocket shoot into the sky, going no greater than 10 toes amplifying Hostetter’s marvel each time. 

“I made a decision I needed to be an astronomer once I was 12,” Lafayette Science Museum planetarium curator Hostetter stated. 

The 67-year-old was one among 99 Lafayette Consolidated Government employees furloughed or forced into early retirement in May. Employed March 4, 1980, Hostetter is the longest tenured worker. 

There is not a time in Hostetter’s life when he wasn’t desirous about astronomy and spaceflight. He remembers tenting out in his yard, the day earlier than faculty began, together with his neighbor and watching the celebs. 

“I keep in mind watching meteors and seeing issues I now know the place Jupiter and Venus that simply puzzled me,” he stated. 

He even remembers participating area books, like By Spaceship to the Moon, that he would learn time and again, a few of which he nonetheless has at present. 

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His plan to be an astronomer was on monitor, attending Ohio Wesleyan College for a level in astronomy. His junior yr in faculty he found planetariums and together with that, public astronomy.

His favourite star to level out within the planetarium, and one which at all times captivated youngsters, is just not a straightforward one to see, say, or spell. It is situated within the constellation Taurus, within the left nook of the bull. The title of the star is Shurnarkabtishashutu — Babylonian for ‘the faint star on the tip of the left finish of the bull’ in keeping with Hostetter. 

After graduating, Hostetter has a tough time discovering a job however stays busy the following yr working as a house-parent of a fraternity at Ohio Wesleyan College, in addition to an assistant to the astronomy professor.  He drove a pair instances per week to the middle of Science and Business in Columbus to work of their planetarium as a volunteer.

The summer time of 1976, he acquired an internship on the Fleischmann Planetarium in Reno, Nevada. 

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“I used to be getting paid for 20 hours of labor per week and dealing about 80 and loving it,” he stated. 

Throughout that summer time, Viking 1 touched down on the floor of Mars on July 20. Details about the Viking was being given to Hostetter immediately from NASA to relay within the courses and packages he was instructing. 

The next summer time, Hostetter acquired the place of College Program Coordinator at Fleischmann Planetarium. This job paved the trail for his future at Lafayette’s Science Museum.

The primary yr because the College Program Coordinator he discovered what did and did not work to show youngsters about astronomy, what was too heavy and what piqued their curiosity. On the finish of ’79, Hostetter realized he had finished about all the pieces he may on the planetarium, so he began to seek for a planetarium curator place.

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The primary time he ventured to Louisiana was for his interview with the Lafayette Science Museum, which at the moment was the Lafayette Pure Historical past Museum — a 1,000 sq. foot constructing behind the Heymann Performing Arts Heart.

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“It was actually nice to work (there) and I used to be having such time, I by no means discovered a purpose to go away,” he stated. 

The “actual recreation changer” for Hostetter in Louisiana was Halley’s Comet, showing in 1986 and the day he met his spouse Carla Lynn Shurr Hostetter. On the time, she was the director of the New Iberia Library, and Hostetter later attended a chat on the library to study archaeoastronomy however to additionally flirt with the “cute librarian.” They’ve been married for 32 years. 

Regardless of his love of the celebs and all issues astronomy, Hostetter solely has one telescope at dwelling. Quickly into his first job, he realized he was getting burnt out on a cycle of labor on the planetarium, come dwelling and browse about astronomy, then plan planetarium packages.

So he began different hobbies like biking, family tree, rocketry. He may also simply get wrapped up in a e book about American or transportation historical past. 

“I discovered methods to not burn out,” he stated. 

Regardless of having a library in his dwelling, he does not have a retirement studying listing. He finds that the very best books he reads simply pop up out of the blue. 

Whereas on the Lafayette Pure Historical past Museum, Hostetter helped turned the place into the “one of many hottest small planetariums within the nation.” A new management system in 1988 aided in that title, with customized crimson cypress board the size of his arms so he can attain each swap and button with out having to maneuver. 

Hostetter has seen planetariums go from foam domes to self-performing blue sky 

When the Lafayette Pure Historical past Museum changed into the Lafayette Science Museum and moved downtown in 2002, Hostetter had 10,000 sq. toes to work with and used each inch. 

He introduced many packages and taught an estimated 300,000 individuals.

“I am very lucky in that just about all the pieces in my profession has been optimistic,” he stated. “We have had our ups and downs, but it surely’s actually been good. And I have been fairly happy with what we have finished. We have had some actually profitable packages.”

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Some issues he considers highlights in his profession embody the Planet Palooza and the 2017 photo voltaic eclipse, each had a whole lot of individuals present as much as see the spectacles. 

“It is simply been a lot that has labored very well and plenty of very nice folks that I’ve labored with, plenty of very nice folks that I’ve met,” he stated.

The sudden retirement means Hostetter does not have many deep retirement plans, although he hopes to proceed assist curating camps corresponding to the Acadiana Symphony science and music camps, or the rocket camp. One thing he particularly enjoys, and nonetheless has his unique rocket from when he was Eight years outdated. 

He additionally plans to stay across the science museum however desires to remain out of the brand new planetarium curators means. For Hostetter, it did not matter when he retired, he would at all times have a some unfinished tasks on the museum. 

“There’s at all times another e book to learn, there’s at all times another mission to complete,” he stated. 

Contact Victoria Dodge at or on Twitter @Victoria_Dodge

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