If you roamed the floors of Denver Comic Con this past weekend, you probably saw Starfleet officers, Jedi, superheroes and warriors from Westeros. You might also have seen a space celebrity that normally hangs out in orbit above Earth. Engineer Dan Regan attended the convention dressed as the Hubble Space Telescope in a costume that is as epic as it is entertaining.
Regan spent more than 40 hours over the course of two weeks working on the costume, which he refers to as a "telescope dress." Regan knew he would need materials that would hold up to bumping into convention attendees (those Klingons can be rough). His solution was to use EVA foam, which can be shaped with a heat gun and glued with hot-melt glue. Nylon straps act as suspenders to hold the costume on his shoulders.
Regan formed the shiny silver surface of the costume from Mylar, which he notes "is not too far removed from the actual MLI (multi-layer insulation) used on spacecraft." Gold wrapping paper and blue aluminum foil help form other parts of the telescope structure, including the solar panels. Even more impressive is that the Hubble outfit is Regan's first attempt at cosplay.
It takes a special person to conceive of, build and wear a Hubble costume. Regan is a spacecraft systems engineer who has worked on optical navigation sensors and spacecraft payloads. "In my experience, more than half of the engineers in the space industry found their passion for space through sci-fi: Star Wars, Star Trek, 'Firefly,' and so on," he says.
Regan is passionate about the connection between the realm of science fiction and the real world of science. "It seems like every first and second grader knows space is awesome, but somewhere along the line a lot of that enthusiasm dies out," he says. He does educational outreach at schools and events to encourage children to stay passionate about science and technology as they grow up. He says a lot of the twentysomething convention-goers thought he was dressed as a satellite, but young kids immediately recognized him as Hubble.
Hubble was a hit, with Regan posing for hundreds of photos. "It was a very cool experience, one of the best days of my life. I felt like I really stood out, although it helped that my costume was tall and shiny," he says.
The only down side to dressing as a space telescope is that the costume got extremely hot, so hot some of the glue melted and required a couple "Hubble repair missions." It also rubbed the hair off the back of Regan's legs, but that's just the price you pay for being the telescope that helps us determine the age of the universe, sees into distant galaxies and sends back beautiful images of nebulae.