As kids, we all had dreams of what we wanted to be when we grow up. I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I think I’m not going out on a limb when I say that space and astronauts rank high up in that list of “what I want to be when I grow up”. This month, Microsoft just encouraged that dream even more with Microsoft Research’s WorldWide Telescope’s planetarium in China.

WorldWide Telescope nebula image

The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables children and adults alike to view space via a desktop or a “real” planetarium – all thanks to the Internet. In order to make the experience educational, the project has taken on the help of experienced astronomers and educators to provide guided tours of the Universe – or at least the most interesting parts of it.

Going one step further, Microsoft Research launched the first WWT-driven planetarium in China. This means that Chinese school children (not exclusively, though) have the opportunity to discover space in the 8-meter dome edifice. The planetarium is installed at the Shixinlu primary school.

To make things even more interesting, not only can the children explore space via existing tours. They can also create their own custom space tours!

One might think that the world has so many other issues to deal with at the moment, but I think this project is just an invaluable. After all, instilling that desire to learn and explore in children at such an early age is something that we all should be paying attention to. And, while not all those children may grow up to be astronauts, the mere fact that they have this opportunity to learn in a high-tech environment will only bring them good.

For those of us who can’t resist the allure of space but are not in China, all is not lost. The WWT is still accessible via the Windows Client or the Web Client (for users of all other operating systems).

[Image via wsfcs]