With its blazing city lights, New York is one of the worst places to go stargazing. But space aficionados will want to visit lower Manhattan this spring—dark skies or not—thanks to a new digital art exhibit created with participation from NASA and CNES (the French space agency) that opened April 7 at Hall des Lumières, the city’s first permanent immersive art center. An earlier iteration of this show premiered at Hall des Lumières’ sister museum in Paris, Atelier des Lumières, in 2021.
Destination Cosmos: The Immersive Space Experience will run for eight weeks through June 4, 2023, at Hall des Lumières, which opened in 2022 in the former Emigrant Savings Bank across from City Hall. Culturespaces, the French museum foundation that founded Hall des Lumières, collaborated with CNES and NASA to create the 35-minute show, which uses more than 100 high-definition projectors to cast footage over the former bank’s walls, floors, and columns for a nearly 360-degree immersive experience set to music.
Visitors will virtually travel through space via 13 different sequences, beginning with a prologue on humanity’s first foray into astronomy that fills the darkened hall with constellations and illustrations of the animals and mythological creatures after which they’re named. The show then rockets forward from ancient times to the 1960s for a segment on the space race with historic footage of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight in the world and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon (with the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” another 1969 culture touchstone, playing in the background).
From there, guests get to count down a Cape Canaveral rocket launch and watch the smoke billow from the center screen across the entire hall’s floor. (Children, in particular, seemed to love chasing the visual effects across the floor during a recent visit.)
Visitors also get to “visit” the sun during a solar storm (with a dramatic operatic soundtrack to match the mood) and watch the Perseverance Mars Rover take a selfie on the red planet (to the tune of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” naturally). Using footage from the Voyager Probe, Destination Cosmos continues out past the solar system and ends beyond the Milky Way galaxy using mind-boggling imagery captured by the James Webb and Hubble Space telescopes.
Though there’s no audio narration to accompany the music, most sequences are contextualized with captions designed to be read by the audience.
Since the show loops, guests are welcome to stay for as long or as little as they’d like and are invited to wander through the 31,650-square-foot space to take in the sequences from all angles. For example, the basement directly below the bank’s main hall projects the entire show with the same imagery and music. But the lower level’s mirrored columns create a fun visual effect, and there’s also a collection of bean bag chairs for lounging that provide a different experience from upstairs.
Get a glimpse of the exhibit
How to plan your visit (and purchase tickets)
Destination Cosmos: The Immersive Space Experience is open April 7 through June 4, at Hall des Lumières at 49 Chambers Street in lower Manhattan. The exhibit is on view from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday (but closed Tuesday) and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Timed entry tickets are available now via ticketmaster.com. (Hall des Lumières is still showing its inaugural Gustav Klimt exhibit at select dates and times.)
Admission starts at $25 for adults and $12 for youth age 5–16, with discounts available for seniors 65+ and veterans/active duty military/first responders. Children under five enter for free.