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September 14, 2023

Take a peek at the Franklin Institute's new $8.5 million space exhibit before it opens in November

'Wondrous Space' has rovers, rockets and travel simulations. It is part of the museum's larger goal to reconfigure and modernize its core displays

Arts & Culture Franklin Institute
franklin institute wondrous space Provided Image/MDSX

The Franklin Institute's new two-story space-exploration exhibit will open on Nov. 4. Above, a rendering of the first level of "Wondrous Space."

Franklin Institute visitors will soon experience the marvels of space travel thanks to a complete reimagining of one of the museum's core exhibits.

The $8.5 million exhibit, called "Wondrous Space," opens to the public on Saturday, Nov. 4. Within the new area, which will span two stories and 7,500 square feet, visitors can interact with NASA artifacts and immersive experiences focused on the evolution of space exploration.

MORE: Penn Museum to overhaul its Ancient Egyptian and Nubian galleries as part of 5-year renovation project

"Wondrous Space" will be located between the Fels Planetarium and the Holt & Miller Observatory. On the first floor, guests will find space travel-themed simulations. The upper level will look at the future of life and careers in space, showcasing innovative tools, technology and leaders in the industry.

Some of the space-related artifacts include two rovers from Carnegie Mellon University and a 10-foot rocket engine from Kennedy Space Center.

For the first time in Franklin Institute history, the creative development of one of its core exhibits was led by an outside team. MDSX, known for its work in theme parks and live entertainment venues, was aided by Derrick Pitts, the museum's chief astronomer. Aerospace company Boeing, which contributed $3 million to "Wondrous Space," is the lead sponsor of the exhibit.

This fall, the Franklin Institute will debut "The Curious Cosmos With Derrick Pitts" podcast, an eclipse-viewing event on Oct. 14 and the "Mars" art installation in November. The Holt & Miller Observatory, which has been "refreshed," will reopen to visitors on Nov. 4.

"Wondrous Space" marks the first step toward a goal of reimagining the Franklin Institute as it enters its 200th anniversary in 2024. Over the next several years, the museum will reconfigure its 12 existing exhibits into six thematic exhibits that will be larger in scale, more future-focused and adaptable to budding scientific trends. 

Along with "Wondrous Space," the other themes will be the human body, Earth systems, "the built environment," advanced machines/robotics and computer science.

“With the launch of Wondrous Space and the exhibits to follow, we are poised to enter an exciting new era of innovation and discovery and continue our mission of inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers," Larry Dubinski, the Franklin Institute's president and CEO, said in a release.

To make way for the new installation, the Franklin Institute's current "Space" exhibit will close Wednesday, Sept. 20.

A sneak peek of "Wondrous Space" can be viewed below in the form of renderings created by MDSX:

franklin institute wondrous space rendering 1Provided Image/MDSX

A rendering of the first floor of the “Wondrous Space” exhibit.

franklin institute wondrous space rendering 2Provided Image/MDSX

Another rendering of the first floor of the “Wondrous Space” exhibit.

franklin institute wondrous space rendering 3Provided Image/MDSX

A rendering of the upper level of the “Wondrous Space” exhibit.

franklin institute wondrous space rendering 4Provided Image/MDSX

Another rendering of the upper level of the “Wondrous Space” exhibit.

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