I may never get around to doing a full report on our vacation that we took in July, but I do want to write about a few things from that trip...especially the second day, when we visited the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, KS. And, if you're a space buff like me, you need to visit it. Let's just say it's everything I hoped it would be...and more.
When we got there, it was pretty early, so the foyer (dominated by an SR-71 Blackbird and a mock-up of the side of the Shuttle Endeavour) was pretty empty. When I paid for our "All-Day Mission Passes," they were even nice enough to scrounge up a motor scooter for Sabrina, not unlike the carts she rides through the aisles of Walmart, so she could enjoy everything, too. We took the elevator downstairs to The Hall of Space, which covers aspects of spaceflight from the German V-1 and V-2 programs up through to the present day, with examples of real hardware or very-exacting replicas all along the way...including many examples of Soviet hardware, such as an unflown backup for the original Sputnik satellite and original Vostok and Voskhod capsules. American hardware is also well-represented, with such items as Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 capsule (dredged up from the ocean floor and painstakingly restored), the Gemini X capsule, an honest-to-God Titan II booster rising majestically into the Kansas sky in an outdoor display, and the Odyssey command module from Apollo 13. That area, I think, impressed me the most, and was about where I started to inwardly lose my shit; aside from looking right into Odyssey, past the control panel and seats into the lower equipment bay, I entered one of the original Apollo "white rooms," complete with the signature of longtime pad leader Gunther Wendt ("I vonder vhere Gunther Wendt?", and sat at some of the original Mission Control consoles...It felt like I was watching The Right Stuff and Apollo 13 all over again. Unlike most of the people walking through these halls, I knew what I was looking at. It really brought home to me how much we've accomplished...and how much we've lost as short-sighted politicians continually prioritize other things ahead of the dreams of humanity.
The cheeseburgers in the Lunar Port food court were surprisingly good, at least as good as some I'd eaten in Hana on Maui. We saw the Tornado Alley IMAX movie, in a domed theater like that back at the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theatre in San Diego, and it was most impressive; Sabrina certainly liked it. (Featuring narration by Bill Paxton!) She also got a kick out of the planetarium show, demonstrating the night sky as viewed in all seasons from Hutchinson, which was narrated with plenty of good humor and leavened with some nice pop music clips, including Clint Black's rendition of Monty Python's "Galaxy Song." Then, in "Dr. Goddard's Lab," we got some impressive explanations and live demonstrations of rocket technology, delivered with all the zeal of a Mythbusters episode by a young man who clearly has a lot of knowledge of, and love for, the material. I spent entirely too much on souvenirs and gifts in the Cargo Bay gift shop, which was totally worth it, and nearly ran my iPhone's batteries dead taking about half a gigabyte worth of pictures. All mission objectives complete!
I can't even begin to describe everything there. You need to go there and see for yourself. But, until then, I've assembled an extensive album of pictures, on Facebook and annotated for your enlightenment, that you can gawk at. Thatisall.