Cosmosphere - Patty Carey

Patricia Irene Brooks was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to William Atwood and Dorothy Irene (Turner) Brooks on June 9, 1921. Patricica "Patty" married Howard Carey II, grandson of Emerson Carey, on September 10, 1941 and brought her love of science and space to Hutchinson.  

In 1962, Cosmosphere founder, Patty Carey set up a used Planetarium Projector and rented folded chairs in the Poultry Building of the Kansas State Fair Grounds and created one of the first public planetariums in the Central United States. Four years later, the planetarium was offered a new home on the campus of Hutchinson Community College and a new, enlarged science center was constructed.

Patty Carey and the Planetarium


Encouraged by the planetarium's popularity, Patty and the board of directors began an expansion campaign to develop a space and science center worthy of international recognition.  When it opened in 1980, the 35,000-square-foot facility included the planetarium, a three-level exhibit gallery, new classrooms for expanded school programs and one of the first-ever IMAX® Dome Theaters. 

In 1997, a major building addition expanded the facility to 105,000 square feet and allowed for the display of a flown SR-71 Blackbird in the lobby. In 1998, the Cosmosphere was named one of the first affiliates of the Smithsonian Institution, formalizing a long-term relationship with the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum.

In 2014, the Cosmosphere announced plans for another major renovation to support more interactive science education opportunities and to showcase its world class collection of artifacts in the type of engaging and stimulating environment today’s museum visitors expect.

Patty Carey has been one of Kansas' leading figures in the development of public science education.

In 1962, fueled by her life-long interest in science, and motivated by the national urgency created by the Russian's launching of Sputnik, Mrs. Carey became the driving force to develop Kansas' first public planetarium - the Hutchinson Planetarium. Working alone, Patty organized a non-profit foundation and raised nearly $10,000 from a weekend of fund-raising from friends and supporters to purchase a used star projector. Using donated folding chairs, a crude fiberglass projection dome, and a staff of volunteer labor, the Hutchinson Planetarium opened its doors in the only place Patty could find - an unused corner of the poultry building on the Kansas State Fair Grounds. The grandeur of the heavens, and of Patty's dream, was not diminished by sharing working space with cages of chickens.

Under Mrs. Carey's leadership as president of the Kansas Science and Arts Foundation, the Hutchinson Planetarium quickly grew and prospered. In 1966, in an effort to further improve the educational impact of the facility, Mrs. Carey spearheaded a major fund-raising drive to build a new Hutchinson Planetarium. Opened later that year, and located in its new home on the Hutchinson Junior College campus, the new institution was soon recognized as one of the nation's leading planetarium facilities. But Patty continued to dream.

Mrs. Carey's latest and most major challenge has been the formation and development of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Discovery Center, considered by many to be one of the world's great space museums. Initially proposed by Mrs. Carey in 1976, the KCDC became a reality when she led a successful multi-million dollar fund-raising effort, and helped oversee many areas of its development. Today, the KCDC houses one of the world's great collections of space artifacts, a collection valued at more than $100,000,000 and exhibited in educational displays that have won numerous national international design awards. It is the home of the "Future Astronaut Training Program," a unique space camp that provides students from around the world the experience of astronaut training. It houses one of the nation's few OMNIMAX theatres, as well as a planetarium, and numerous other educational programs. With an annual attendance of more than 300,000, the KCDC has quickly become the number one tourist attraction in Kansas.  

Mrs. Carey's contribution to our Hutchinson and science will never be forgotten.  She sadly passed away in January of 2003 but she left a legacy that will last a lifetime.