Planetarium and STEM Center

More than a margin

Expanding Horizons

Sixty years after it first opened, a renewed and modernized Planetarium and STEM Center is being reintroduced at the Air Force Academy.

With modern technology and opportunities to showcase more than constellations, the Planetarium and STEM Center can have an even larger impact than its predecessor. Programs will be offered for K-12 STEM outreach, cadets and the general public. Pre-made presentations will be used as the facility showcases its capabilities. The staff will be able to create their own shows as well.

The facility had been shuttered since 2004. Thanks to the findings of a Planetarium Task Force convened in 2012, the Academy started making plans to reopen the planetarium. Lead gifts by John Martinson ’70 and Jerry ’70 and Pam Bruni helped the USAFA Endowment raise over $2.5 million in private funds. The public- private partnership between the Academy and the Endowment created a state-of-the-art facility that will educate visitors for years to come.

The planetarium was made possible thanks to major donations

John H. Martinson ’70 was the lead donor for this project. His connection to the planetarium dates back to the 1960s when he attended Boy Scout camp at the Academy. 

Jerome ’70 and Pam Bruni – Jerome Bruni has been fascinated with space ever since his father, James Bruni, built him a telescope. The auditorium is named in James Bruni’s honor.

U.S. Air Force Academy classes of 1985, 1997 and 1998

Several other individual donors

Numbers to know

  • Opened in 1959
  • Closed in 2004
  • Reopening in 2019
  • $5 million project
  • $2.5 million funded through donations
seating capacity
surround sound audio system
foot wide dome at its base
image gallery

Take a peek behind the scenes

During 2018, the Planetarium and STEM Center underwent a major change inside and out. See some photos here of the progress.

Donor Profile

John Martinson '70

Chairman, Martinson Ventures

A venture capitalist, software industry leader, philanthropist and Vietnam War veteran, John Martinson is a strong supporter of education and the Air Force Academy. He points to the Air Force core values as influential drivers of his many careers. From Air Force pilot to entrepreneur and philanthropist, he has lived a life of service, innovation and leadership.

He first discovered the planetarium as a young boy scout. As a cadet, one of the first things he did was volunteer to help with the planetarium shows. And one of the first sights he saw every morning when he woke up in Vandenberg Hall was the large white dome that inspired him in the early 1960s.

Martinson hopes the Planetarium and STEM Center will similarly inspire cadets, school children and visitors. The facility’s renovation and rebirth will promote impactful learning with innovative instructional design and advanced presentation technology.  

What's next?

Preparing for the future

  • The Planetarium and STEM Center hosted its first public viewing January 20, 2019, during a lunar eclipse. It opened to the public March 4, 2019, offering screenings Monday through Friday at 12:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday and Thursday mornings are reserved for school visits.
  • Supporters of the planetarium can help keep the programming up-to-date with donations to the planetarium fund.

Approximately 1,100 people attended the lunar eclipse event at the Planetarium and STEM Center, the first public event since it was renovated. The evening included a film, a lecture about the eclipse and telescopes for closer viewing.

Want to help provide more than a margin now?

Gifts made today in support of the Academy foster cadet exploration, engagement and discovery. They help develop a well versed and more experienced officer in the United States Air Force.

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