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Mars makes its big debut at the Peoria Riverfront Museum

Tim Shelley
A 10-foot illuminated model of Mars created by British artist Luke Jerram is the centerpiece of the Peoria Riverfront Museum's new exhibit around the Red Planet. The model was sponsored by Sheldon and Mary Ann Schafer.

You can't take a trip to Mars yet, but you can do the next best thing at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

The museum is unveiling a new exhibition dedicated to the Red Planet. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a 10-foot spherical model of Mars created by British artist Luke Jerram. He's also the creator of the museum's Moon sculpture.

"It's really realistic," said planetarium director Renae Kerrigan. "And you can see it kind of floating in the sky in the gallery, and examine the planet in great detail."

Kerrigan said Jerram made the model using high-resolution imagery from the High Rise camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The model was sponsored by former planetarium director Sheldon Schafer and his wife, Mary Ann.

Schafer said he dreamed of visiting Mars as a kid, and the planet remains an inspiration to him.

Tim Shelley
Items from "Mars Attacks" are among the pop culture items on display at the Peoria Riverfront Museum's new Mars exhibit.

"Unlike in my day, some of these kids will be the generation that does go to Mars. And that is an opportunity," he said. "So if we can inspire for the next generation who will travel to Mars, hey."

The exhibit also features full-scale models of the first Mars Rovers, pop culture items, remote control robots, and an augmented reality Martian landscape.

The exhibit is open now through next spring.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.