Alumni, seniors look to stars at planetarium show

Even though the stars were not visible outside, Homecoming guests were able to see the wonders of the solar system at Loras College’s very own planetarium at the “‘Journey to Space’ Manned Mission to Mars” show. It took place on Friday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. in the Heitkemp Planetarium as a part of Loras College’s Homecoming week celebration.

What made this presentation unique was, for this year’s Homecoming show, two alumni returned to Loras in order to do the presentation along with two seniors who are involved with the planetarium and its diverse array of programs. Jeff Heitzman (’75) who is currently a systems engineer, and Alan Boyle (’76) were the two alumni; Michael Krol and Marshall Jackson were the two seniors who worked to present the show.

In this special presentation, all four contributed to show the audience just how close humans are to setting foot on Mars. Heitzman’s part of the show was giving his expert commentary on a video which showed audiences a possible landing zone found on the planet. Based on already-known information about the Red Planet, this is one spot astronauts could use in a future mission. Boyle, meanwhile, educated the audience about the possible means of transportation astronauts might use in order to travel to the neighboring planet. Alongside that, he gave a short overview on a presentation given by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk about the possible mission.

“Working with the alumni on planning the show made this presentation unique,” Krol said. “It was very interesting working with them. They provided real-world knowledge on careers in the aerospace industry.”

Throughout the year, the planetarium is constantly busy with a variety of programs they offer to the community. One thing they do is offer the public a show similar to “Journey to Space” about once a month. In addition to that, those who work at the planetarium do a variety of private and educational shows for schools in the area.

“The private shows that we give to grade schoolers in the area are always exciting,” Jackson said. “The kids seem to have a blast seeing the stars and learning about the planets.”

The next public show the planetarium will be presenting is called “Pluto: Revenge of the Dwarf Planet.” The audience will learn about the former ninth planet in the solar system, explore why the decision was made to downgrade Pluto to a dwarf planet. They will also view the best and most recent photos of Pluto thanks to the newest technology. Jackson will be one of the presenters in addition to fellow senior Zach Schroeder. It will take place on Friday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. as one of the events of Family Weekend. For information about all the shows, visit

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