following article appeared July 6, 2003 in the
space in the home
Rick Newman keeps an extensive
collection of space artifacts in his Boca home and has set up 14
science centers in 12 states.
By Brian Bandell
Boca Raton News Staff Writer
Rick Newman sits back on his couch
next to a Russian SOKOL space suit. He strolls past the Russian and
Chinese flight helmets on display in the living room in his Boca Raton
home. He holds a Geiger counter up to an ordinary-looking orange plate
to measure its radioactive activity – the device beeps like crazy. “They didn’t know the paint had radioactive
metals in it when they made it,” Newman said. “It’s not
dangerous, but I wouldn’t eat off it!”
Newman, 47, collects space artifacts, scientific anomalies and other
high-tech gadgets. He has given them on loan to museums and donated
them to set up 14 science centers in schools and Boy Scout camps in 12
states. In April he opened one at Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School
after hearing that the school sent a science experiment on the fallen
Space Shuttle Columbia.
The science centers have computers, microscopes, mineral and bug
samples and high-tech devices like surveillance cameras for nature
watching. Newman said he targets his donations toward school districts
that are cash-strapped, such as a Native American reservation in
Montana, because many of them can’t afford to set up interactive
“Now they can view the stars with a telescope, not just in their
text books,” Newman said.
His home is like its own science center. Situated in a quaint
tree-shadowed neighborhood near downtown Boca, it’s hard to guess
that Newman’s home has a weather forecasting device on his fence
that transmits the conditions on his Web site, cameras surveying
almost every inch of his property and small tubes that automatically
water his plants.
Newman also owns the first electric car
allowed on the roads in the
United States. His nearly 23-year-old yellow two-seater was made by
(the) Vanguard company in Sebring, FL, can reach 40 miles per hour and runs on nine
batteries. He added strobe lights and an MP3 player for style.
One might expect Newman to be marching around in a Star Trek costume
but he prefers to kick back in tropical shirts and shorts as he checks
out tunes from an Internet radio station on his computer.
Newman’s most stunning outfit is the Russian SOKOL space suit, which
was used in space in 1988 by a Bulgarian cosmonaut. Only three or four
of them are in the United States and one is in the Smithsonian. Newman
keeps his in his den.
He also owns space suit gloves, space shuttle tiles and dozens of
mission patches with the crews’ names sewn in. Newman recently
acquired the porthole window from a training duplication of the
Russian MIR space station.
Newman has part of his collection on loan to the South Florida Science
Museum in West Palm Beach. His space shuttle EVA suit and mercury
space suit, along with many other items, makes up most of the
museum’s space exhibit, museum director Jim Rollings said.
“We’ve gotten a tremendous level of support from a man who just
enjoys spreading the knowledge of science,” Rollings said. “What
Rick has done is significantly enlarge our space displays by loaning
us these historic and really very rare items from his collection.”
The museum would be hard-pressed to obtain many of these items without
Newman’s help, Rollings said. NASA doesn’t part with any of its
historic items but the cash-strapped Russian space program does—for
a substantial price.
“Ever since baby boomers got old enough to afford collecting, the
price of anything collectable has gone sky high. It makes it tougher
on museums to compete with the private collectors,” Rollings said.
“Many museum depend on private individuals to lend us their
When asked how he acquired his space collection, Newman just rubbed
his fingers together—signifying cash. He has contacts with former
space program workers in Russia and also checks auction Web sites like
E-Bay. He’s acquired more than 200 items.
Newman can afford all this thanks to his self-made business High-Tech
Productions.com. He does high-speed video and DVD duplication and
converts video formats for tapes from other countries. Newman’s
business has done work for NASA, IBM, Apple Computers and several
universities. His company pulls in about $1 million a year.
CNN is a regular customer of High-Tech Productions. Newman is
currently duplicating and designing the DVD cover for the news
network’s upcoming release “Inside the War Room” about its
newsroom during the war in Iraq. He also converted the al-Qaida
training camp videos that CNN found in Afghanistan and was one of the
first people to see the dog being gassed.
“It amazes me that I’m actually doing this stuff. Even some of my
family didn’t believe me until they came and saw it,” Newman said.
For more information
about Newman’s collection and science centers visit www.HighTechScience.org
or call (561) 750-7000.