NASA Administrator and Midlands Native Charles Bolden briefly choked up when he talked praised his science teachers–and his mother–for making sure he got a solid science education while growing up in a South that was struggling with integration.
But the former astronaut was clearly enthusiastic about helping launch construction South Carolina’s first state-owned planetarium and space observatory complex, known now as “Windows to New Worlds.”
The $23 million project has been more than a decade in the making, as the state’s most influential business leaders and local governments put together funding during the great recession.
Columbia businessman Roger Blau led the State Museum Foundation through those tougher times. He praises the state for funding the $11.5 million of the project and for the bold choices of recent leadership.
“To take a direction like it never has been before. To open up the Body Worlds and Titanic exhibits, there were record-breaking numbers of people coming to these exhibits. They’ve never had so many people coming to this museum in a year. Now with the launch of the “Windows” project, this museum is going to be looked at very differently by many people in this state.
One of those most enthusiastic is Bolden, who says this addition will make the State Museum unique in the U.S.
“And it probably will be for some time,” Bolden says.”Because it’s got the right mix of a telescope where kids can look into the heavens, a planetarium where they are going to be taught about what they are going to see when they look through the telescope, a 4-D theatre in a big dome, it’s absolutely incredible.”
NASA also gave $2 million to the project.
AUDIO: We spoke with Bolden about what this all means to him. (5:49)