Sunday, August 29, 2010

The New Museum in Town


An Atlas Sustainer Engine on display in front of the Launch Complex 12 exhibit. Photo courtesy Carol Smith.

My wife Carol and I stopped by the new U.S. Air Force Space & Missile History Center, located just outside the south gate of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Center is operated by the Air Force Space & Missile Museum, often known as the "Explorer 1 Museum" on base at CCAFS. The museum at Complex 26 is accessible only by paying for a Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex tour bus, except for when the CCAFS Public Affairs office conducts a free tour the second Wednesday of each month. The Center therefore is an effort to grow the Museum beyond its limitations, in a location more easily accessible to the public.

To reach the Center, drive north on SR 401 from the 528 Causeway past Port Canaveral. Just before you reach the CCAFS south gate, turn right into a building complex that is the south campus home of Space Florida. (The official address is 100 Space Port Way in Cape Canaveral.) One building is the launch control center for SpaceX. The Center is in a building behind SpaceX.


The Launch Complex 40 exhibit now includes some items donated by SpaceX. Photo courtesy Carol Smith.

The history of every launch complex at CCAFS is on display with its own exhibit. If you've ever wondered about the history of one particular pad, this is the place to find out. Some exhibits feature archival footage on a video loop. The exhibit will indicate if the pad is still in active use.

The LC-40 exhibit has a display case with a few items donated by SpaceX, which has taken over Launch Complex 40. I suspect we'll see a lot more SpaceX items donated to the Center in the years ahead.

The Center also has a gift shop, with many items you won't find at the KSCVC Space Shop. I picked up a 1999 documentary titled Thrust Into Space: How the Space Program Changed Brevard County. This 53-minute film has a lot of archival footage of the county and CCAFS in particular I've never seen anywhere before. The DVD was $12.00; I can't find it online, so you'll need to go by the Center to buy it.

But that's okay, because the Center is free. (Do the classy thing, though, and leave a donation in the box on your way out.)

The Center's hours:

Monday CLOSED
Tuesday 9 AM - 2 PM
Wednesday 9 AM - 2 PM
Thursday 9 AM - 2 PM
Friday 9 AM - 2 PM
Saturday 9 AM - 5 PM
Sunday 12 PM - 4 PM

I'm told they have plans for expansion, but as always with these non-profits it will depend on their ability to raise money.

The Center has a partially completed web site at www.capemuseum.org. You can also contact its operators through the existing Museum web site at www.afspacemuseum.org.


The test console for a Gemini launch. Note the rotary phone! Photo courtesy Carol Smith.

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