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West Michigan’s largest planetarium to undergo major technology upgrades

Grand Rapids Public Museum

The Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium is getting a major upgrade.

The planetarium is popular; pulling in about 60,000 visitors a year. But it uses technology that's almost two decades old. GRPM spokeswoman Kate Moore says the upgrade will make a huge difference.

“Right now our shows, not only are they out of date technology wise, but some of the information is not shown in the best way that’s possible. They’re not at maximum capabilities to what, especially students, but also the general public is used to seeing these days,” Moore said.

Moore says the $1.2 million investment will update the technology so shows are in high definition. More seating will be added.

Plus Moore says the new equipment will make it possible for people to make their own shows in-house. She says the museum hopes to team up with college professors and teachers in the area to create new shows on whatever interests them.

“It’ll be just a great learning experience and good opportunity for students and professors with their classes to come over, use the equipment firsthand, be able to produce a show, related to any topic that they’re studying or of interest or even of a current issue,” Moore said.

An $800,000 grant from The Wege Foundation will cover the majority of the cost.

The upgrades are expected to wrap up in early 2014.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.