A museum you should visit

cosmosphere squashed penny

If you’re in or near Hutchinson, KS, you should visit the Cosmosphere. Heck, if you’re in Wichita, you should visit the Cosmosphere. It’s that good.

I really can’t emphasize too much how interesting the Cosmosphere is. They’ve got an SR-71 on a stick in the lobby. You can see the flush riveting up close. They’ve got both a V-1 and a V-2, along with model slave laborers working on the V-2, and a page out of a 1940s Peenemunde engineer’s notebook showing some trajectory calculations.

They’ve got a Mercury-Redstone and Gemini-Titan on display. You can see the engines close-up. Don’t miss the “cowboy pants”, the part of the Titan II stage 1 that sits atop the engines.

There’s just an amazing amount of US space program material on display, space suits, a Gemini capsule where you can see the eroded heat shield, and what’s said to be the most extensive collection of Soviet space materials outside the old USSR, like Sergei Korolev’s slide rule. There’s Russian space suits and a re-entry vehicle or two. Amazing.

All the technical exhibits are framed inside a history of the Cold War. It’s quite educational to see this. Based on declassified materials, the Cold War seems to have driven the US space program, contrary to the “open society, doing it for science” propaganda that the US put out during the 1950s-70s.

Dr Goddard’s Lab

I haven’t visited the Cosmosphere since 2019, I think, and I saw Dr Goddard’s Lab in 2012, but.. don’t miss the show in Dr Goddard’s Lab. This probably varies in quality, because the Cosmosphere has live employees doing the show. When I saw it, it was a decent explanation of rocket engines, and Robert Goddard’s role in developing engines and guidance systems. The actors made a rocket out of a large plastic bottle, and do a few tricks with liquid oxygen. The kid doing the show last time I saw it spilled liquid oxygen on the lab table, and was apparently seconds away from hitting the fire alarm before he put the fire out.