South Carolina State Museum Makes Space the Center of Science Education

The South Carolina State Museum will open Windows to New Worlds, a $21 million expansion focused on space and astronomy. The on-site observatory, as well as a 145-seat planetarium will give the public a unique view of our universe and enhance the state’s science education.

The Boeing Observatory will give the public many options for viewing the stars. Its centerpiece is a 12” refracting telescope built over 90 years ago. Visitors to the museum will be able to look through the telescope during evening viewing sessions. An outdoor terrace will host star parties where local amateur astronomers can set up their own telescopes. The observatory will display the museum’s collection of historic telescopes, some almost 300 years old.

The projection system in the 145-seat BlueCross BlueShield Planetarium will let the audience fly through star formations and nebulas during regular astronomy presentations. A permanent gallery will host interactive displays about space exploration as well as artifacts from Nasa’s history in space. Charles Duke, Lunar Module Pilot on the Apollo 16 mission, donated many of these artifacts from his personal collection.

South Carolina astronaut Charles Duke on the Moon during the Apollo 16 mission. (My favorite - the Apollo 16 Command Module was the Casper) Source: Nasa

South Carolina astronaut Charles Duke on the Moon during the Apollo 16 mission. (My favorite - the Apollo 16 Command Module was the Casper)

Source: Nasa

Windows on New Worlds will enhance South Carolina’s science education with classrooms, planetarium shows, and education programs designed around the state’s science standards. Distance learning systems will let teachers and students across the state control the observatory’s telescope and talk with the center’s staff. This will let the museum help schools in underserved communities improve science education.

In an interview Charles Duke conducted with local newspaper The State, the former astronaut said “I think it’ll stimulate the kids. It’ll help bring alive some of the history of South Carolina astronauts ... and hopefully it will stimulate the kids to reach for the stars and plan a career that maybe they could (go to the moon) one day, and on to Mars.”