Fact: Kids like space. We know it, you know it, and the Children’s Museum knows it. Which is why the venue has revamped its planetarium into the new permanent exhibit Beyond Spaceship Earth, which opened at the end of June. The $8 million upgrade was built with insight from Indy-born astronaut David Wolf (pictured), the institution’s scientist-in-residence. As with all things at the museum, interactivity is key. Here, a few ways your kid’s imagination can escape Earth’s gravity.
1. See more than stars.
A typical planetarium contains a projector and not much else. Beyond Spaceship Earth combines a planetarium with an exhibit, which features real space vehicles and equipment around the theater.
2. Touch a space capsule.
The theater currently showcases the Liberty Bell 7 (left), which was piloted by Gus Grissom, an Indiana native and the first astronaut to visit space twice. It’s a comeback for the capsule. “We had it 15 years ago, and people loved it,” says Jeffrey Patchen, CEO of the museum. “Kids were like, ‘Whoa, this is how humans got to space in 1967?’”
3. Drop by the International Space Station.
“It’s hard for people who haven’t been to space to understand why the sleeping bags should be on a wall or the ceiling rather than the floor,” says Wolf. As such, the life-sized ISS replica has an Alice in Wonderland feel. A faux truss lets visitors simulate Wolf’s own spacewalk, a peek at zero-G life.
4. Meet your heroes.
There are more than 30 astronauts with Hoosier connections, and the Indiana Astronaut Wall of Fame contains 32-inch touchscreens with bios and histories of each. Many have Purdue ties. “It really is an astronaut academy,” Patchen says of the university.
5. Watch the world go by.
Thanks to NASA imagery, visitors to the ISS can enter a hatch and watch video of the Earth passing below.
6. Get cozy.
The exhibit includes a replica of the tiny Soyuz space capsule, which carries supplies and people to and from the ISS. (With a capacity of three, it’s basically a space lifeboat.)