Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kansas Cosmosphere

At the Cosmosphere, visitors hear the non-biased, definitive story of the Space Race. With a U.S. space artifact collection second only to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the largest collection of Russian space artifacts outside of Moscow, the Hall of Space Museum is known by space enthusiasts worldwide.

The Cosmosphere has four venues: The Hall of Space Museum, The Justice Planetarium, The Carey IMAX Dome Theatre, and Dr. Goddard's Lab, which is a live science presentation. The Cosmosphere also hosts a series of camps for children as young as those going into second grade.

This is one of only three museums to display flown spacecraft from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. ~
Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center

My first surprise on the visit was when entering the lobby, my eyes automatically looked up at the enormous Blackbird aircraft hanging over my head, in its characteristic stealth mode. At 107' long, wingspan of 55', and weighing 67,000 pounds, it was impressive to say the least. I was equally impressed by the Space Shuttle Endeavor which made up part of the wall with the ticket counter under the wing, until I had to ask if it was real and told that no, it was not real, but it was the actual size of the Space Shuttle.

The Blackbird, however, was definitely the real thing. I wondered how they got it into the building? Take it apart and put it back together? No, they built the building around it. It was originally sitting outside the museum and when they expanded the facility, they built the lobby around the plane where it sat.

The description above - "non-biased, definitive story of the Space Race" - is just a little inkling that this museum is different than other space museums I have visited. The tour started out in WWII Germany, I was shocked by the swastika on the wall and the large red German flag with the swastika in the middle. Yes, the space race started in Germany with Hitler making the V-1 rocket to bomb England, and grew from there with his team of rocket scientists defecting to the US after the war to continue their work to get into space.

The tour went on to the Russian participation in the Space Race, the competition with America to reach space first, all the way to the present Space Station.

The museum was filled with history and information and actual vehicles and artifacts - even a space rock! It was a bit overwhelming to take it all in at once. I found myself passing by the usual space museum stuff - the lunar rover and mars rover, the rockets and capsules - with a 'been there done that' attitude, having seen things like this before.

But taking in the entire history of the Space venture in a couple of hours really puts into perspective the enormity and impossibility of the vision, and the fact that it was actually accomplished makes me ashamed to take these things for granted. A young boy was there with his father, the father finding something fascinating around every turn - the boy was so bored, this was all old stuff to him, his generation definitely takes this for granted.

I am sure that the Kansas Cosmosphere is a welcome addition to the Smithsonian family, and the location here in the middle of the country is perfect for all those people who cannot get to Washington, a job well done, Kansas!

1 comment:

The Jones Family said...

Sounds like a very interesting place. I love the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. so I would probably like this museum as well. Look fascinating. Thanks for the post.