Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The State Museum is growing with the construction of "Windows To New Worlds."
"I think it's going to exceed any expectations," said Charles Bolden, NASA administrator and former astronaut.
The State Museum will add over 22,000 sq. ft. to its building for a new project, "Windows To New Worlds." And it's been a long time coming.
"This was first dreamed up in 1997, so this has been going on a very long time and a lot of fundraising and a lot of energy put into making this happen today," said Tom Falvey with the museum.
Bolden joined city leaders at the groundbreaking. The Columbia native had his hand in the planning.
"I was really excited about it. The fact that it was going to be unique to South Carolina. No other place will have something like this. So I've been working on and off with them for almost 10 years," he said.
The 23 million dollar project will feature a 55-foot digital dome planetarium and theater, an observatory and a 4D theater. And even if you can't get to the museum to see the stars, you can catch them on the Internet.
"We'll be able to do web-based learning with the telescope with images directly from the telescope. Teachers are going to be able to log on and direct the telescope, with our help, from their classroom," Falvey said.
An estimated 75,000 visitors a year are expected to check out the new facility. While "Windows To A New Worlds" will highlight the galaxy, supporters of the exhibit hope it will highlight the state and individuals.
"We have such a great space history in South Carolina with astronauts like Gen. Bolden and some of the other greats," Falvey said. "This really helps us to tell that story about South Carolina and South Carolina's history in space."
"You learn a lot, not only about the history of the state, but about our place in the world," said Bolden.
Construction of "Windows To New Worlds" is expected to take between 12 and 15 months. The expansion also includes renovations to the museum's entrance, lobby, meeting rooms and educator training space.