This summer, you can blast off into outer space by taking a trip to downtown Grand Rapids! While our city may be more than 200,000 miles from the Moon, you and your family can experience space travel through the interactive, fun, and educational exhibit Be the Astronaut at the Grand Rapids Public Museum available until September 16, 2018.

Don’t miss these points of interest that will make your trip to the Grand Rapids Public Museum a whole day of space exploration fun for the whole family!

Step into the Command Pilot role as you experience the Be the Astronaut exhibit with your "astronaut ID card."

Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids


Instagram-worthy photo op

Begin your excursion with a photo opportunity of the Man in Space astronaut sculpture outside of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

In 1976, famous sculptor Jud Nelson was determined to sculpt a heroic astronaut figure. Once President Gerald R. Ford caught word of Nelson’s interest, he immediately pushed for Grand Rapids to be the home of the work of art. Nearly a decade later, in 1984, the Man in Space sculpture officially “landed” in Grand Rapids.

Strike a pose with this Instagram-worthy photo opportunity before continuing your “out of this world” adventure in downtown Grand Rapids.

The Be the Astronaut exhibit is split into three categories: Nav - Plan your mission, Sci - Explore science and technology, and Fly - Take flight!

Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids


Visit the Be the Astronaut exhibit

Next, make your way to the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s latest exhibit Be the Astronaut. This new exhibition teaches visitors about the challenges of space exploration. Be the Astronaut highlights the main concepts of space flights and invites all visitors to interact with a futuristic storyline to learn about space exploration while having fun. Get ready to enjoy this hands-on experience that’s packed with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) content, and delivered through state-of-the-art video game technology.

Upon entering the exhibition, each visitor will receive an “astronaut ID card” which will unlock access to spacecraft simulators and learning modules. The ID card corresponds with the three categories of activities featured in the exhibit: Nav - Plan your mission, Sci - Explore science and technology, and Fly - Take flight!

At the beginning of each interactive game, a space expert will greet you and explain your mission. Visitors get to take command of futuristic space vehicles and work with their own crew to learn what’s needed to launch a shuttle, fly a spaceship to the moon, pilot a lander, and drive a surface rover on Mars. The simulators, each built with joysticks and touchscreens, are a fascinating experience as the entire cockpit comes to life with special animated lighting effects and sounds to make visitors feel like they’re real astronauts.

The activities within the exhibit are scientifically verified by NASA experts.

“The activities within the exhibit are scientifically verified by NASA experts”, says Dr. Stephanie Ogren, Director of Science, Grand Rapids Public Museum. The exhibition also features displays on other aspects of outer space. Visitors can learn about asteroids, the parts of the solar system, gravity, and 3D printing. “This exhibit lets our community travel to space from right here at the Grand Rapids Public Museum,” Dr. Ogren said.

Space travel wouldn’t be complete without a spacesuit! Kids and families can check out different suits, including a current NASA prototype and even a replica complete with a helmet coated in 24K gold!

Be the Astronaut will run until September 16, 2018.

Admission to the exhibit is $12 for adults, $7 for children, $9 for Kent County resident adults, $4 for Kent County resident children, and $2 for all Museum members.

Plan your family's space exploration outing before Be the Astronaut concludes on September 16, 2018.

Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids


See the stars at the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium

End your day trip by stargazing in the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, located within the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Roger B. Chaffee is a famous astronaut and Grand Rapids-native who died in the Apollo 1 fire during a test at Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1967.

The fallen astronaut made a positive impact on the “Space Race” and is recognized as a national hero for his contributions to space exploration. Chaffee always had a love for flying. Before he worked for NASA, he was a U.S. Naval aviator who flew missions during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1961.

Facts about Roger B. Chaffee:

  • Roger B. Chaffee graduated from Grand Rapids Central High School in 1953.

  • On October 14, 1963, Chaffee returned from a hunting trip in Michigan to find a message from NASA! He called them back and was told that he had been chosen as an astronaut, according to the NASA History Office.

  • When Chaffee was a high school junior, he had earned almost every possible badge in the Boy Scouts and later earned rank as an Eagle Scout.

Visit the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium to recline in big, comfy seats, and see the stars, moon, and whole solar system in a way like never before!

The planetarium offers six different shows with a rotating schedule each week. Be sure to check out the museum’s website to learn about the different shows and showtimes. With general admission, planetarium shows are $4 each. Museum members are free and planetarium-only tickets are $5.

Whether you’re planning a family road trip, or are looking for local activities to enjoy, don’t miss an exciting day of space exploration downtown Grand Rapids this summer!

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