Kherson Park – The Seattle Times

Jun 16, 2023

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The Seattle Times:

Kent kids blast into space with new, astronaut-themed downtown park


Seattle Times staff reporter

KENT — One moment, Kyoshi Wolfe-Hong was walking down a hot stretch of sidewalk with his dad. The next moment, the 3-year-old was driving a space exploration vehicle across the cratered surface of the moon.

An imaginary portal to outer space opened last month at Kherson Park, which has been redeveloped to serve downtown Kent’s growing population and to get kids thinking about working in the city’s space sector. The 0.2-acre park is tiny, but Kent is changing and big things are happening at local companies like Blue Origin, which just won a $3.4 billion contract from NASA.

Chan Hong, 36, sat in the shade last week and laughed as he watched his son hustle up, down and around the equipment. They live nearby.

“He’s all over the place. Since we arrived, he has not stopped,” said Hong, a maintenance technician. “He’s really into being an astronaut right now.”

Tucked between an office building, a medical clinic, a spa and a bookstore, the park’s play area includes a realistic replica of the lunar rover that Apollo program astronauts used on the moon in the early 1970s and a scaled-down, play-structure version of the lunar lander that touched down on the moon six times between 1968 and 1972. Kids can climb on both, and slide off the lander.

There’s also a mission control panel with buttons to push, dials to twist, switches to flip, a memory game to play and an intercom that connects to the lunar lander. Bouncy spots on the ground mimic the absence of gravity on the moon, and part of the park is devoted to grass and tables for resting and picnicking. The rover and lander look like they could be in a museum, but they don’t have the “no touching” rules that kids hate.

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