The Best Gifts for Space Fans, According to 12 Scientists, Engineers and Educators
The Planetary Society's 2019 Gift Guide
Looking for holiday gift ideas? We asked a dozen space scientists, engineers, and educators to recommend fun space-themed gifts for kids and adults who are enthusiastic about space. We hope they help you make your favorite space fan happy!
I’m always on the lookout for amazing space clothing for my one-year-old baby, so I was thrilled to find Posh Peanut’s adorable space pajamas. This romper is made from bamboo, so it’s incredibly soft and breathable. Even better, Posh Peanut has coordinating styles in the same space print, so you can buy a newborn swaddle, adult pajamas in both men’s and women’s styles, and even a fabulous lounging robe to outfit the whole family. Matching space pajamas make my heart flutter, so you’d better believe my son and I wear these together on a regular basis. They’re adorable, comfortable, and make a perfect space-themed gift for any families on your list.
Mom & Me Pajamas From Posh Peanut, featuring Swapna Krishna and baby
Swapna Krishna covers space, technology, and pop culture in publications such Engadget, The Verge, StarTrek.com, and StarWars.com. You can find her on Twitter at @skrishna.
Rion Nakaya: Space Racers and littleBits Space Rover Inventor Kit
Space Racers: make your own paper rockets
Space Racers: make your own paper rockets mixes the ancient art of papercraft with the wonder of massive vehicles that can escape the pull of Earth's gravity. Every detail of this exceptional kit reflects the reverence that rockets inspire, and I love the look of the resulting paper pieces. They're impressive additions to any space enthusiast's shelf. The hardcover box set holds eight historically accurate press-out paper rocket models, plus two blank paper rockets that are great for starter-builds. Two additional booklets include step-by-step instructions, beautifully designed information about the vehicles, and some rocket science basics. Put these paper rockets together with intricate gluing methods or, like my 9-year-old, dive in wholeheartedly with a roll of clear tape. Either way, they make wonderful weekend projects for older kids and adults alike.
littleBits Space Rover Inventor Kit
With the littleBits Space Rover Inventor Kit, ages 8+ can explore their world like the team at JPL explores Mars. Scout the landscape, detect light sources, scoop up and carry cargo, create obstacle alerts, and lots more. Kids build and program this amiable, app-controlled rover and its tools, boosting their imaginative play with 30 NASA-inspired missions. littleBits are modular circuit 'bits' that snap together with magnets to teach basic circuitry concepts. The rover comes with light and proximity sensors, a buzzer, a bar graph, a long LED, a number display, a servo, two motors, and other smart bits that can be remixed endlessly beyond the kit, too. These electronic building blocks have been attached to kid projects around our house for years, from wooden train scenes to cardboard dollhouses to blanket forts. They make it fun and easy for kids to create, experiment and problem-solve with technology through play.
Rion Nakaya loves storytelling, sustainable tech, well-designed spaces, and wandering the halls of small museums and science centers. Since 2011, she has curated a 4,200+ (and growing) video collection at The Kid Should See This to connect parents and teachers with YouTube's sometimes-hard-to-find educational content, and to champion the creators who make it. Her favorite thing about TKSST: When videos appeal to kids and adults alike, it's a lot more fun to watch and learn together.
Christina Richey: Celestial Buddies
My gift choice is the amazing Celestial Buddies! These stuffed planets make anyone happy, whether they are kids, adults, or pets; my cat Möbius, has his very own Uranus and Mercury to snuggle with. One has even been to space! Celestial Buddies aren’t just limited to the planets we’ve come to know and love: one of my favorites of the Buddies is Polaris (which lights up and comes with mini Polaris AB and Polaris B). And should your child (or cat, in my case) have a stuffed-goods addiction, there’s the Black Hole bag to store all those goodies in (watching a black hole consume planets just made cleaning the house soooo much easier)!
Christina R. Richey is the program manager of the Solar System Exploration Science Research and Analysis Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They are also a project staff scientist on the Europa Clipper Mission. In addition to their scientific activities, Richey has held several leadership positions and has actively engaged in education and public outreach opportunities. They are an accomplished leader and award winner in their field in dealing with anti-harassment policies and procedures and have been cited by major news agencies for their efforts within the community to create safe, inclusive environments. In their spare time, Christina is an avid run/walker, and shares space with two of the greatest cats that ever existed, Möbius and Gauss.
Aileen Yingst: Planetary Society Gift Membership
The gift of membership
My parents gave me the gift of membership in the Planetary Society when I turned 15. It was my portal to current missions, a window into the latest results in planetary science, and a way to make a difference through political action — in short, it turned my static knowledge of planetary science into an active, dynamic pursuit of solar system exploration. It’s a path I still pursue, and it’s a membership I retain to this day. I’m grateful for the role the Planetary Society played in my career. Give the gift of membership to someone you love and see how far it can take them!
R. Aileen Yingst, a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, is interested in discovering what the morphology of rocks and grains can reveal about their geologic history. She is the Principal Investigator for the lunar Heimdall camera system to be flown on a commercial spacecraft, as well as Deputy Principal Investigator for the Curiosity rover MAHLI camera, and a Co-Investigator on the Dragonfly mission recently funded to fly to Titan. She also served as Associate Principal Investigator for the Opportunity rover.
Bianca Vasquez: GoldenTassel Astronaut Earrings
GoldenTassel Astronaut Earrings
What better gift for a fashionable individual than fun space-themed earrings? The etsy store GoldenTassel has a wide selection earrings including my personal favorite: astronaut earrings. They are the perfect way to hint your interest and love for space! Fashion and space are two of my favorite things, and I like to mix the two together. Pro tip: this is how you can find other space nerd friends: someone spots your accessory and compliments it, then BAM—new friendship! The earrings are hung on fish-hook wires and 100% nickel-free. I love finding space accessories to incorporate in my everyday life because as a student, I like to have reminders of what I love and what I am doing this all for: space!
Bianca Vasquez is a community college student studying mechanical engineering. She is the founder of the Society of Women in Space Exploration (SWISE). SWISE empowers students to become leaders in their schools, creating spaces for women & allies who share a common interest: space and diversity in STEM. Vasquez loves all things pink, tech, space, and fashion.
Tanya Harrison: Planet Tattoo Tees and Hand-Painted Wood Space Art
"Mars, I Shall Always Love You” tee by Juleah Kaliski
When I saw Juleah Kaliski’s first tattoo-style T-shirt featuring Saturn, I immediately messaged her asking if she could create a Martian tattoo tee design—and she did not disappoint! Her style is super unique and distinctive, keeping its hand-drawn look across all her designs. She posts a lot of behind-the scenes looks at her process on Instagram and has shown off her space nerd prowess on YouTube and Snapchat. Juleah is also really active on Twitter on things space and gaming. It’s always awesome to be able to support a fellow space nerd, and to see someone fuse science and art the way she does! From Apollo to Pluto, her work definitely spans the Solar System.
Hand-Painted Wood Space Art by Chrissy Sparks on Etsy
Chrissy Sparks paints beautiful skyscapes and gorgeous galaxies on pieces of wood. From earrings to ornaments, large and small, she has little pieces of the universe for everyone. I love the idea of capturing nature on nature. Her fox painting is particularly adorable, but if you keep an eye on her Etsy shop or Twitter page, you can sometimes catch more nerdy offerings like dinosaurs (I’ve got a stegosaurus ornament of hers myself). Chrissy also has some lovely paintings on canvas or as frameable prints if you’re more of a traditional-art person. She’s a great example of channeling her love of space into art.
Tanya Harrison calls herself a "Professional Martian," having worked in mission operations for multiple NASA Mars missions over the past decade. She is currently the Manager of Science Programs at Planet Labs.
Justin Filiberto: Thin-Section Printed Clothes from Terra Persona
Thin-Section Printed Clothes from Terra Persona
Terra Persona makes beautiful clothing and accessories with science prints. Specifically, the Martian meteorite thin section leggings were a great purchase for my daughter. The clothes are well made and show off science. They are thicker than most leggings, wash really well, and have held up to kid use. The company was created by two geologists who care about not only their product but making it as sustainably as possible!
Justin Filiberto is the manager for petrology and geology at the Lunar and Planetary Institute run by USRA. His work focuses on petrology, mineralogy, and geochemistry of planetary basalts, especially on Mars and Venus.
Naia Butler-Craig: Chasing Space by Leland Melvin
Chasing Space, by Leland Melvin
Chasing Space is a true story of overcoming obstacles. Leland Melvin, a former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver, shares his incredible story of how he persevered in the face of multiple setbacks on his journey to success. Melvin is a multifaceted person: chemist, professional football player, engineer, and astronaut. However, these educational and professional achievements aren’t the most important characteristics an astronaut must possess. Success requires grit, perseverance, and the ability to work with a team. Melvin is exemplary in all of those categories with the scientific experience to back it up.
Naia Butler-Craig is a Ph.D. student in aerospace engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is also a pathways student at NASA Glenn Research Center. Her primary research interest is using electric propulsion technology to enable deep space exploration. Her primary goal is to become an astronaut.
Aaron Yazzie: Space Art by Native American Artists
Art by Andy Everson
Many Indigenous creation stories involve explanations for how the sun, moon, and stars came to exist. There are several contemporary artists who depict these stories through incredible art. This particular piece by Andy Everson, a Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw and K'omoks artist, depicts a solar eclipse in the style of traditional Northwest Coast Indigenous designs. In the words of the artist, his ancestors called a total eclipse event “na̱ǥa̱kw” or “swallowed”, as it was believed the Sun was being consumed by a giant creature. Pieces like this, which combine my love of space with traditional Indigenous art forms, are special to me (see also these pieces created by Jeffrey Veregge), being a Navajo-space-nerd myself. It makes a great gift for any space-lover, allowing us all to enjoy space from a beautifully unique perspective.
Aaron Yazzie is a mechanical engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, working in the Planetary Sample Acquisition and Handling group. He is currently part of the Mars 2020 mission, working on the team developing the rock coring drill and sample caching system.
Jennifer Turner: Print-Your-Own Space Travel Poster
JPL's Visions of the Future Posters
Ever dreamed of jetting through the cosmos, or walking through an aquarium in the depths of Europa? How about sailing around Venus in a cloud observatory, or stopping for water at Ceres before hot ballooning on Jupiter? The NASA JPL Visions of the Future poster series will make space tourism feel like it’s just around the corner and makes a great gift for any space or art enthusiast! The images are free to download from JPL and include stunning artwork with a small fact related to the illustration’s subject. Print out and frame for an awe-inspiring addition to any wall art collection. There are lots of online services you can use to print posters and ship them to yourself or another, such as Costco, Redbubble, and Vistaprint.
Jennifer Turner currently works at NASA Johnson Space Center as a CRONUS flight controller for International Space Station Mission Control. She earned her BS in Computer Science and Engineering from The Ohio State University and is passionate about STEM outreach.
James Tuttle Keane: 3D-printed planets from Little Planet Factory
Little Planet Factory
The Little Planet Factory specializes in 3D-printing planets and planetary objects, all based on real data collected by planetary scientists and astronomers. They have everything: Pluto and Charon, Mars with real topography, Titan with a removable atmosphere, asteroids and comets, and more! My personal favorite is their Galilean satellite set, which has all four major moons of Jupiter (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto) to scale. While they may not have the detail of some bigger, mass-produced globes (like those from MOVA or My Science Shop), or as cuddly as the Celestial Buddies, Little Planet Factory has the advantage of more exotic choices at a variety of scales. These make for wonderful tabletop models that help inspire!
James Tuttle Keane
James Tuttle Keane is a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology. He studies the geology and geophysics of terrestrial planets, icy worlds, and small bodies using data from NASA’s robotic missions.
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