The Saint Louis Science Center was originally founded as a planetarium in 1963. It currently boasts a collection of buildings including a science museum and planetarium located in Forest Park. With over 750 exhibits in a complex, it is among the largest science centers in the United States.
The Planetarium was designed by Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum with a unique shape (Obata was later tasked in the 1970s with designing the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.). James Smith McDonnell, an aviation pioneer and co-founder of St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas, an aerospace manufacturer, donated $200,000 for equipment such as the star projector. The facility was named after him in 1964.
On July 20, 1978, the Planetarium reopened as the Saint Louis Science Center. On November 2, 1991, as part of a $34 million expansion, a new building opened across from the Planetarium increasing the size of the Science Center by a factor of seven. New exhibits in this building were devoted to earth science, emerging technology, life sciences, physical science, and chemistry. Within two months, the newly remodeled Saint Louis Science Center became the most visited science center in the world.
An air-supported building (that sounds awesome!) was added to the main building and was called the Exploradome. Notable exhibits have included shows on the RMS Titanic ocean liner, and Body Worlds, a traveling exhibition of preserved human bodies. From2011-2012, the main building hosted Star Trek: The Exhibition, a major showcase of Star Trek props, costumes, and artifacts, including a full-size bridge from the USS Enterprise. The Exploradome was deflated to make way for a planned expansion after 16 years of operations in 2013.
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