Angry Birds roosting at NASA

Delaware North, Joe Cascio/AP Photo Angry Birds Space Encounter at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Angry Birds have a new space coop.

At NASA's invitation, the online game birds are roosting at Kennedy Space Center for the next 1½ years in an effort to lure youngsters to the cosmic wonders of math and science.

The huge interactive exhibit opened March 22 and immediately packed in the kids, including this reporter's 7-year-old son who couldn't get enough of the mirrored maze and the design-your-own Angry Bird and play-the-game stations.

It's called Angry Birds Space Encounter and is the first of its kind.

Astronaut Donald Pettit, a chemical engineer and father of 12-year-old twin boys, announced the collaboration between NASA and Angry Birds creator Rovio Entertainment a year ago while living aboard the International Space Station. He squeezed in as much physics as he could in the YouTube announcement.

"Wow, this could be a great venue for getting some physics and getting some math and getting some science into something that has the connotation as just an empty brain-draining video game that sucks out the creativity from the minds of young people," Pettit told The Associated Press at the grand opening.

Enter the concepts of parabolic trajectories, hyperbolic trajectories, elliptical trajectories and even Holman transfer orbits, "which is what we do with spacecraft going from Planet A to Planet B."

"There's all this stuff latent in this game, particularly if you tend to be a geek, or an uber-geek or what I'm actually calling now a super-uber-geek," Pettit said. "All of this stuff can be mined out of this game and it can be used as an excuse to learn more. If you're not in any of those categories as a kid, you can still play the game and be entertained."

Toss in space shuttle Atlantis, making its museum debut in another few months, and the educational value goes sky-high. The $100 million Atlantis display, just a few minutes' stroll from Angry Birds Space Encounter, opens June 29.

Angry Birds is "a nice prelude to Atlantis and it will be a nice complement as well," especially for children, said John Stine, Delaware North Co.'s director of sales and events at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

"They're going to learn something about Angry Birds and they're going to really be inspired when they go to Atlantis."

The 4,485-square-foot exhibit features six interactive stations, including 4-foot-high Eggsteroids Slingshots that children can use to launch mini Angry Birds at enemy pigs, and a laser-beam obstacle course set on the Red Planet.

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