New Children’s Museum exhibit reveals a whole new universe to young imaginations
On June 25, 2016, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis opened the doors to the Schaefer Planetarium and Space Object Theater – an exhibit that introduces young visitors to the wonders of space and science in a whole new way.
The project involved a full renovation to the museum’s existing 2,600 square foot planetarium, which was built nearly 30 years ago. Now, a new 360-degree projection dome and a state-of-the-art sound system create a one-of-kind immersive experience that opens developing minds to the miracle of space travel.
Visitors are also treated to exhibits of space memorabilia and space artifacts in cases throughout the planetarium. One artifact that was too big to fit in a glass case takes center stage in the Space Object Theater It’s the Liberty Bell 7 (LB7), the capsule piloted by Indiana native Lt. Colonel Virgil “Gus” Grissom 55 years ago on the second U.S. manned flight into space.
The exhibit also recreates portions of the International Space Station giving visitors a sense of what a day in the life of an astronaut is like aboard the space station. Visitors also get an opportunity to sit in a replica of the Soyuz capsule that carries astronauts to and from the station.
To help make this exhibit a reality, the museum hired F.A. Wilhelm Construction to manage its construction.
Wilhelm’s project manager, Todd France, said there were a number of challenges with this project. One of the biggest was designing and building the platform for the LB7. Designers and the Wilhelm crew had to make sure the floor was strong enough to hold both the 7000-pound capsule and the specially constructed hydraulic lift that raises and lowers the LB7 and allows it to be rotated in place. France said working with a NASA artifact was a new experience for us. “We’ve never installed something like this before,” he said. “Design-wise, we had to make sure the diameter of the table wasn’t too big to fit inside the space, but big enough to support the capsule.”
One of the biggest benefits of this exhibit is what it can teach kids about the history of the NASA and the importance of the program. “It gives children a chance to see what space is like,” he said, adding that what they experience at the Schaefer Planetarium and Space Object Theater could be “the thing that spurs the next astronaut from Indiana.”