An exhibit focusing on the solar system inspired by an art installation will open Saturday at Discovery Cube Orange County in Santa Ana.
“Ten years ago, I saw an art project in Europe that had these giant planets,” Discovery Cube CEO Joe Adams said. “It only lasted maybe a summer and it never came back, but I remember seeing images of that thing and I thought, wow, I’d like to do that someday.”
Adams envisioned it as an interactive exhibit for children to learn more about the cosmos.
The exhibit will be on the museum’s second-floor Showcase Gallery, which is 10,000 square feet and has a 24-foot high ceiling.
“The sun is 19 feet tall alone,” Adams said. “And the planets go out from there.”
Jupiter and Saturn are 8 to 10 feet tall, and earth is 6 feet tall, Adams said.
“The planets are internally lit, so they glow,” he said. “And each planet has its own orbit. The goal is to talk about the solar system and have kids walk through it and learn about the size of the planets relative to each other.”
The exhibit will show how much visitors would weigh on each planet, how many moons they have, their environments and other facts.
NASA scientists have been providing information to help train docents, Adams said.
“We’re really happy to bring this in,” he said. “I don’t know any science museum in the country with a walk-through solar system. We are fortunate to have a giant gallery to put them all together.”
Features to the exhibit will be added throughout the summer, beginning in mid-June with rocket launch stations for children to propel a spaceship to a planet. In July, the exhibit will feature a Mars rover that visitors can operate with a remote control over the red planet.
Another inspiration for the exhibit was providing something new and exciting for children coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Adams said.
“Kids have gone through so much with COVID,” Adams said. “They need some fun things to be inspired about again, so we went for a big thing that was out of this world. … It was to help them cope with the issues they’ve dealt with over the past couple of years.”
The exhibit also capitalizes on renewed interest in space exploration as the space tourism industry evolves, he said.
“It’s a very interesting time for that conversation” about space exploration, Adams said.
The exhibit will be part of a regular price of admission, he said.
Plans are to end it by fall and then bring it back again next year, Adams said.