George's passion for rocketry launches a life-long journey of discovery at COSI.
George Pantalos remembers when COSI first opened. He watched Foucault’s Pendulum take its first swings during COSI’s opening ceremony, broadcast live on local television that Sunday afternoon in 1964, with a 12-year-old’s sense of awe.
COSI’s opening coincided with huge advancements in the U.S. space program in the 1960s, and for Pantalos and his friends in the Columbus Society for the Advancement of Rocketry, COSI was a place they could interact with exhibits on loan from NASA.
Pantalos recalls Apollo 8’s first orbit of the moon his junior year of high school. COSI invited Pantalos and his friends from rocket club to provide guests with a more in-depth experience of the event. They set up a monitoring station next to a NASA-loaned exhibit about space travel and provided live updates of the astronauts’ journey. They did the same thing on a larger scale during Apollo 11, this time using a full-scale Apollo command module on loan from NASA, taking turns putting on the space suit to simulate the real-life mission.
Pantalos went on to volunteer and work for COSI, drawing on his passion for science and engineering to build the first hot air balloon exhibit, a tetrahedron kite that hung in Memorial Hall, and, years later, an artificial heart exhibit. During his college years at The Ohio State University, Pantalos taught hands-on science classes during COSI’s summer education session and worked as a team member during the first five years of the hugely popular Camp-In program.
Now, Pantalos is a professor of surgery and bioengineering at the University of Louisville. His groundbreaking work with artificial hearts and long-time love of space flight have culminated in a fascinating career that has taken him on 31 zero gravity flights to examine the effects of gravity and weightlessness on the cardiovascular system, and to develop emergency medical procedures for spaceflight.
In addition to his own strong COSI connections, Pantalos’s parents, Jim and Mary, volunteered at COSI during their retirement. His mother was one of the first volunteers to log more than 3,000 hours, mostly spent helping patrons at Guest Services. The Pantaloses made life-long friends during their many years of volunteering, and at their visitation (both Jim and Mary passed away in January 2013), their son was touched by the outpouring of support from their friends from COSI’s staff and volunteer program.
Pantalos says that giving to COSI is a great investment in making science, technology, and history accessible to the public.
“We all benefit from science, technology, and engineering, but for a lot of people, it’s pretty mysterious stuff. COSI removes some of the mystery and helps people relate to it so it’s not so intimidating… and it’s fun!”