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The following article appeared July 6, 2003 in the

Outer 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

P
ublished July 6, 2003

     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 science programs. “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 collections.”

    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.

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