Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

See the new $8.5 million ‘Wondrous Space’ exhibit at the Franklin Institute this fall

Design your own exploratory space rovers, learn about careers in space exploration, and see Mars up close.

A rendering of the "Wondrous Space" exhibit to be unveiled at the Franklin Institute on Nov. 4.
A rendering of the "Wondrous Space" exhibit to be unveiled at the Franklin Institute on Nov. 4.Read moreThe Franklin Institute

T-minus two months until Philadelphians can lift off into space with a brand new exhibit coming to a solar system near you.

“Wondrous Space,” a two-story space exploration exhibit, is opening Nov. 4 at the Franklin Institute. Partially backed by a $3 million gift from Boeing, a manufacturer of satellites and rockets for space, among other things, the exhibit will cost $8.5 million.

Visitors will have the chance to immerse themselves in simulations of black holes, witness awe-inspiring space phenomena, and learn about future technology that will make life and work viable in the cosmos.

Objects on display will include two rovers from Carnegie Mellon University, a 10-foot-long rocket engine from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, and artifacts on loan from Boeing, Kennedy Space Center, ILC Dover, CMU, JPL, Smart Tire, Aleph Farms, Alluxa, and the award-winning inventor of space bread, Hope Hersh.

In the coming years, “Wondrous Space,” along with other installations, will help transform the institute’s programming to larger-scale, more future-focused exhibits on emerging scientific trends, according to the Franklin Institute.

The 7,500-square-foot exhibit is the first one to be designed with help from an external design team, led by creative director Dan Picard, co-owner of the Black-owned experiential design firm MDSX. The Franklin Institute’s chief experience and strategy officer, Abby Bysshe, and her team set out to bring MDSX’s designs to life to create not only a scientific but also an artistic and sensory marvel.

“We brought a traditional theme park designer into the mix so that there are different companies pushing against what our museum mindset might be,” said Bysshe. “When those things combine, you get an exhibit that’s pushing into a new realm of experience — it’s really great to bring in a more diverse group of people that really get the creative juices flowing.”

According to the institute’s president and CEO, Larry Dubinski, these changes will complement the museum’s 200th anniversary in 2024. He said the hope is the programming will inspire young people and help them understand that the future of space exploration is dependent on the scientists, researchers, and builders of today.

“We really want younger people to see for themselves that these are real jobs,” said Dubinski. “Yes, there’s only X number of astronauts, but beyond that, there are engineers, scientists, and people in skilled labor that are putting these spacecrafts, space suits, and rovers together, as well as the food science that’s behind what goes into space.”

Other big news includes the reopening of the Holt & Miller Observatory on Nov. 4, which had been closed for refurbishment, and the launching on Sept. 12 of The Curious Cosmos with Derrick Pitts, a new podcast featuring the Franklin Institute’s chief astronomer. Upcoming events include the 2023 annular eclipse museum viewing event on Oct. 14, and the display of a replica of Mars created by UK artist Luke Jerram in November.