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June 16, 2022

Franklin Institute unveils plans for new space exploration exhibit focused on future trips to moon, Mars

A $3 million gift from Boeing will help create the immersive, multi-floor gallery. It will open in 2023

Arts & Culture Museums
Franklin Institute SPACE Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The Franklin Institute will open six new exhibits and revamp the visitor experience over the next five years. The new SPACE exhibit will be a two-story gallery examining space exploration.

Space fanatics will have a new reason to visit the Franklin Institute next year when the museum opens a two-story gallery that will examine the future of space exploration.

The Franklin Institute has a received a $3 million gift from Boeing that will fund the SPACE center. It is one of six exhibits the Franklin Institute is developing over the next five years. 

The 7,000-square-foot exhibit will be located between the Fels Planetarium on the building's first floor and the Holt & Miller Observatory on the fourth floor. It will include a range of sensory experiences that give guests simulations of the technology being used to discover new mysteries of the universe. Prominent figures in the space industry will contribute to the exhibit's educational design, offering guests a mix of scientific knowledge and hands-on interaction.

The exhibit will examine space travel to Mars, another mission to the moon and how technological advancements in space science will benefit life on Earth. It is expected to open in the fall of 2023. 

The museum came up with the concept for the new exhibit after holding focus groups and workshops with students and teachers in Philadelphia, in addition to leaders from local businesses, universities, foundations and nonprofits.

"This cutting-edge, dynamic, fully-immersive exhibit is groundbreaking," Franklin Institute President and CEO Larry Dubinski said. "Involving all sectors of the community using an outside-in approach was an important part of this process to ensure that we created an exhibit that satisfies the desires of our many visitors. We listened and learned, and now we are ready to deliver an exceptional experience."

Boeing, one of the world's largest aerospace manufacturers, said the goal of the exhibit is to inspire a new generation of scientists and space enthusiasts.

"As part of our proud space legacy, we know that space can be an indispensable tool for inspiring and engaging students around science, technology, engineering and math," said Ziad Ojakli, Boeing's executive vice president of government operations. "Boeing's investment will be transformative for both the Franklin Institute and the hundreds of thousands of students who will visit the reimagined SPACE exhibit each year, ensuring future generations can be inspired by the endless possibilities of space, and see themselves as part of that journey."

The Franklin Institute will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2024. The Fels Planetarium is the second-oldest in the Western Hemisphere, making the study of space a fundamental piece of the museum's history. To mark the anniversary, a number of capital projects and renovations have been planned to update facilities and exhibits. 

One of the museum's most anticipated new exhibits will honor the legacy of the Walt Disney Company as it celebrates its 100th year. That 15,000-square-foot exhibit also will debut next year. 

The gift from Boeing is the company's latest investment in The Franklin Institute. It donated the former British Airways Boeing 707 airplane FoxTrot Papa in the 1970s and has supported the museum's STEM Scholars youth education program.