Illustration of planets

A Charge Forward

Developing a planetarium show and activity kit for a diverse audience


The Bell Museum has been awarded nearly $875,000 in a three-year cooperative agreement from NASA’s Teams Engaging Affiliated Museums and Informal Institutions program to create a new, accessible planetarium show and toolkit of science activities in the program, A Charge Forward: Activating the Nation’s Planetariums to Excite the Public about Human Space exploration of the Moon and Beyond.

Designed for an audience grades 4–8 and their families, the planetarium show will focus on human travel beyond Earth’s orbit, looking at how astronauts stay healthy, motivated, and engaged during times far away from home. It will highlight NASA research and training initiatives to show how creativity, collaboration, and communication are key for deep space travel—and also for young people preparing for future STEM careers!

In this compelling, full-dome planetarium show, the audience will voyage with astronauts in the crew vehicle embarking on the first human mission beyond Earth’s orbit. A kit featuring three to five activities adapting NASA material for accessibility will accompany the show. Both the kit and show will aim to be relevant and accessible to participants with disabilities. Using Universal Design For Learning principles, the activity kit will provide multiple ways for students to engage—learners who are Deaf or who have disabilities will be able to participate and benefit from these resources. We aim to center diversity and inclusion in our development process and the story itself.

The Bell will collaborate with NASA, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, and Karen Peterman Consulting Company during this three-year project, which will feature the contributions of people with disabilities to NASA/science discovery. The show will premiere in the Bell’s Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium in late 2022 and be made available to planetariums across the country free of charge.

A Charge Forward is one of four projects at U.S. informal science institutions NASA selected for funding. NASA says the projects provide students the opportunity to engage in Moon to Mars exploration approach through science, technology, engineering, and math, and aim to reach populations that are historically underrepresented in STEM professions.