The Fleet Science Center Celebrates 50 Years

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Since opening on March 10, 1973, the Fleet Science Center has served more than 26 million people and inspired three generations, connecting San Diegans to the power of science. Today, the Fleet continues to grow as a countywide organization with active partnerships and programs in communities from Escondido to San Ysidro.

What the Fleet’s flagship location in Balboa Park has in common with its engagement in neighborhoods is the same thing that made the world’s first tilted dome planetarium possible – moments of inspiration.

In 1965 the idea of creating a new science center in San Diego inspired a scientist, Dr. Edward Creutz, and an engineer, James Crooks Jr., to come up with their revolutionary new concept for the Fleet’s planetarium. Preston “Sandy” Fleet, who was on the early planning committee, had an “aha!” moment when he saw a demonstration by the fledgling IMAX Corporation for a new large-format, flat-screen film projector. His inspiration led to the development of the OMNIMAX projector for giant dome screens.

These innovations were national news in 1973 when the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and Science Center opened and influenced a generation of new science centers around the world.
Created by the community and born from imagination, inspiration and innovation, the Fleet Science Center is still part of moments of inspiration every day – the collective “whoa!” from a class of fourth graders watching Hubble in the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater; the screams of “Look at this!” when a child figures out an experiment at an in-school workshop; an adult having their mind blown when talking to scientists volunteering for the Fleet’s Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar program.

Throughout the Fleet Science Center’s 50th anniversary year, they will celebrate the stories of people who have had inspirational moments at the Fleet, like Gala Guest of Honor Katya Echazarreta, who was encouraged by a Fleet visit to stick with her childhood dream and flew to space in June 2022.

With the help of 50th Anniversary Lead Sponsors the Reuben H. Fleet Foundation Fund, Qualcomm, and the Shiley Foundation, the Fleet also will give back to the community – a weekend of 1970’s prices, special exhibits in local libraries, community and school events, and more – to celebrate our community: the parents, teachers, STEM professionals, schools, nonprofits and businesses who partner with the Fleet to create moments of inspiration throughout San Diego County.

Since 1973 the work of the Fleet Science Center has been inspiring, innovative and at times, radical. The Fleet Science Center invites everyone in our community to join in the celebration and get inspired this year.

The Fleet Science Center’s 50th Anniversary Gala is Saturday, April 15. For more information on the Gala and other Fleet 50th Anniversary activities go to www.fleetscience.org.

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Esteban Villanueva
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