Angry Birds have a new space coop.

At NASA's invitation, the online game birds are roosting at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the next 1½ years in an effort to lure youngsters to the cosmic wonders of math and science.

'This could be a great venue for … getting some science into something that has the connotation as just an empty brain-draining video game that sucks out the creativity from the minds of young people.'  —Donald Pettit, astronaut

The huge interactive exhibit opened March 22 and immediately packed in kids attracted to its mirrored maze and the design-your-own Angry Bird and play-the-game stations.

It's called Angry Birds Space Encounter and is the first of its kind.

Astronaut Donald Pettit, a chemical engineer and father of 12-year-old twin boys, announced the collaboration between NASA and Angry Birds creator Rovio Entertainment a year ago while living aboard the International Space Station. He squeezed in as much physics as he could in the YouTube announcement.

"Wow, this could be a great venue for getting some physics and getting some math and getting some science into something that has the connotation as just an empty brain-draining video game that sucks out the creativity from the minds of young people," Pettit told The Associated Press at the grand opening. 

"And so I thought, well, maybe I could help make a difference on this and bring the idea of a game up to a different level, where unbeknownst to the kids playing it, they're learning a little bit of math and physics at the same time."

Appeal for super-uber-geeks, astronaut says

Enter the concepts of parabolic trajectories, hyperbolic trajectories, elliptical trajectories and even Holman transfer orbits, "which is what we do with spacecraft going from Planet A to Planet B."

"There's all this stuff latent in this game, particularly if you tend to be a geek, or an uber-geek or what I'm actually calling now a super-uber-geek," Pettit said. "All of this stuff can be mined out of this game and it can be used as an excuse to learn more. If you're not in any of those categories as a kid, you can still play the game and be entertained.

A new $100 million display of the space shuttle Atlantis, which opens June 29, is just a few minutes' stroll from Angry Birds Space Encounter.

Angry Birds is "a nice prelude to Atlantis and it will be a nice complement as well," especially for children, said John Stine, Delaware North Co.'s director of sales and events at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

"They're going to learn something about Angry Birds and they're going to really be inspired when they go to Atlantis."

The Finnish-based Rovio Entertainment has another Angry Birds Space exhibit up its sleeve at another locale in the near future, said Dan Mitchell, the company's director of location-based entertainment. 

"But you can't get a much more true-to-life space theme than being here at Kennedy Space Center," Mitchell said as his 6-year-old daughter waited none too patiently at the exhibit entrance.  

The 417-square-metre exhibit features six interactive stations, including 1.2-metre-high Eggsteroids Slingshots that children can use to launch mini Angry Birds at enemy pigs, and a laser-beam obstacle course set on the Red Planet.