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An inflatable planetarium at the March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California allows visitors to learn about distant galaxies and space travel.
The Discovery Dome was originally loaned to the museum by NASA for the month of March. More than 2,000 people visited the inflatable planetarium to attend the show entitled “We Choose Space!” The show is a 3D educational presentation about the International Space Station and the prospect of humans living on the moon in the future. The show is narrated by astronauts Scott Parazinsky, Tom Jones, and Gene Cernan and the late news anchor Walter Cronkite.
A survey taken before and after the show revealed that most viewers came out knowing more about space than they did when they arrived at the inflatable planetarium.
The show was so popular and such a valuable educational tool that museum officials decided to raise $30,000 to purchase their own inflatable planetarium in September. They began offering shows in November. The dome can also be used at schools on Mondays, when the museum is closed.
The dome measures 17 feet in diameter and is shaped like a giant igloo. It is inflated with an air blower and is constructed of lightweight, durable material. An airlock door allows it to retain its shape as visitors enter and leave. Twenty to 30 people can lie on beanbags or sit on folding chairs to watch the show. The planetarium uses digital technology and a Newtonian mirror system attached to a laptop to project images onto the dome.
Both children and adults have been captivated by the show at the inflatable planetarium. Museum officials and teachers believe it is a valuable tool to get children excited about science.