Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cosmosphere in Hutchinson KS

I suppose if you live in the middle of the country, visiting the Kennedy Space Center in Florida or the Johnson Space Center in Houston or the Air and Space Museum in D.C. all seem a little far to go for a rocket fix.  If that's the case, you can try the Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas.

Between it and the Salt Mines, you can make a pretty full day in this small Kansas city.  They're both participating in the Blue Star program this summer, making general admission free to military and their families.  For civilians, you can get a money-saving combo ticket to both places here.  General admission $12 for adults and $10 for kids ages 4-12, discounts for seniors and AAA.  The IMAX theater and Dr. Goddard's lab is extra.

When you walk in the door, you can bump your noggin on a real SR-71 Blackbird, which the main lobby of the museum was built around.  My camera was having battery issues, so you'll have to see it for yourself.

The museum follows the history of rockets and space travel, starting with science fiction and World War II.  They have REAL V-1 and V-2 rockets on display, as well as amazing details of the programs that developed around and in response to them.

Our generation may forget it all too easily, but the story of space travel is the history of the Cold War.  It involves ingenuity, espionage, fear, competition, failure, heroism, cover-ups, cover stories, and politics.  Really, if you just want to learn about the Cold War, it's worth the visit.  If you want to be inspired and amazed by feats of engineering, it's worth the visit.  If you want to learn more about what the Soviets were up to, this is the place to go.  In any case, you'll learn a lot.

 Sorry, it gives me nerd chills.

Outside you can walk around a Titan rocket, used in the Gemini program.  From the exhibits inside you can access the base of it.

Most of the displays were over the kids' heads, especially the younger ones, though I think Patrick and Sam came away with a new perspective.  The little ones got kind of restless after a while, probably tired out from the Salt Mines earlier that day.  Fortunately, there were enough things to climb on in a few places to entertain them long enough for Mike and me to read displays.  The museum could use a few more interactive things, though, there was a lot of reading and artifacts, but not much hands-on.

However, they do have some pretty impressive rare artifacts relating to Sputnik and nuclear warheads.  Also on display are capsules from Gemini X, Vostok, Mercury VII (the "Liberty Bell"), the Apollo Program "white room," a large moon rock, and Patrick's thrill: THE Apollo XIII Command Module "Odyssey."

Plus, Jim Lovell's flight suit:

I've met Jim Lovell, he's a pretty nice guy.  I don't think the kids ever believe me when I tell them, though.  They think he looks like Tom Hanks.

This Lunar Module was Nicholas' favorite.  I think every 30 second for a straight half-hour I had to tell him No, he wasn't allowed to climb on it.  "But it's got a laaaaaddddder!"

How big are the space shuttle's tires?  About as big as a five-year-old girl:

Tell them we sent you!

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