A little museum with the big ECHO! We preserve the character of the American Space Program. How? By preserving not only individual artifacts, but the human stories behind those artifacts!
Our exhibit hall (undergoing a Refresh throughout 2018) offers everything from spacecraft parts to astronaut suits to photos and working launch consoles, and even Soviet cosmonaut mementos. Our galleries are dedicated to Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Shuttle and the future of space, as well as rotating exhibits. And once you are done with our American Space Museum, you can enjoy a leisurely “Walk of Fame” just down the street in Space View Park, where you will see our beautiful steel and granite monuments and engravings dedicated to all those who made space exploration a reality. But our purpose isn’t just to honor the past; we are also adding a new section dedicated to the future of American space exploration, as well as a Children’s Discovery Room — an exciting “makerspace” — where young people can work on computers, access 3D printers and Cricut machines, solve puzzles, draw and create.
This room pays tribute to the astronauts, the engineers and the innovators who dreamed the dream…and made it a reality! Featuring such gems as an original Mercury lighted space glove, an explosive hatch from a Mercury spacecraft (remember the problem encountered by Liberty Bell 7?), real banana pellets fed to the “first” astronauts (Ham, Enos, Able and Baker), a couple of “naughty ladies” who orbited the earth with John Glenn and Scott Carpenter, and so much more, this room is dedicated to the story of Mercury, our first steps into space.
In here, you will see the goals and objectives of the project, as well as the personalities and conflicts, the funny stories and the near tragedies of this innovative and inspirational phase of America’s space program. Meet the astronauts as REAL people, find out about design innovators like Max Faget, hear about the challenges faced by the First Lady Astronaut Trainees, find out why the astronauts hated the word “capsule”. Discover why Gus Grissom is the only astronaut to wear a women’s panty girdle into space — or why Al Shepard traveled skyward in a “wet suit.” Learn about interesting local legends like car dealer Jim Rathman, who kept the astronauts in Corvettes and helped create a nationwide mystique, or Henri Landwirth, a concentration camp survivor who hosted the original seven astronauts at his motel in downtown Cocoa Beach.
After soaking in the energy and innovation of the Mercury room, head next door to Project Gemini. There you will meet the next generation of astronauts, engineers, mission control specialists, and more – the folks who taught us how to survive in space for more than a few hours, and those who perfected rendezvous and docking, EVA (space walking), sleeping in space and, yes, eating and using the bathroom up there, as well.
Learn why the Gemini spacecraft was nicknamed the “Gusmobile” and why Gus Grissom caught flack from NASA for christening his Gemini 3 spacecraft “The Molly Brown.”
See photos and video or listen to audio from some of our most challenging missions. Did you know that Astronaut Tom Stafford was actually advised to leave Gene Cernan in space and return to earth alone from their Gemini 9 mission? Find out why in our Gemini Exhibit Hall!
The Gemini Hall will walk you through the chronology of the entire project, from the Molly Brown through to the triumphant work done by “Dr. Rendezvous” himself, Buzz Aldrin, on Gemini XII.
Exiting the Gemini Hall, you can explore the sprawling Apollo area, or you can step next door and view our Rotating Exhibits. There you may find a tribute to the FLATs (the First Lady Astronaut Trainees…endured the same grueling tests and prep as the Mercury Seven but were never given a green light for space flight) or an up-close and personal recollection of Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral in the early 1960s as they were seized by “Astronaut Fever,” or a tribute to our nation’s first African American Astronauts…and so much more. Exhibits in this hall will be changed out every few months.
This is our largest hall because Apollo still fascinates and inspires like no other project in our space program. It was the era of triumph, the project through which man conquered the moon! And our existing hall is being modified to make it more chronological. The Apollo Hall recalls the drama and determination as thousands of Americans labored to make the coveted moon landing a reality. Our main hall will take you from the triumphant launch of Apollo 7 – the first mission after the tragic fire of Apollo 1– through the testing of the spindly little LM (lunar module.) You will experience the challenges and danger of Apollo 8 – man’s first mission to travel to another celestial body – followed by the progressive missions of Apollo 9 and 10, and culminating in the triumph of Apollo 11, which put mankind on the moon.
But Apollo didn’t end with the moon landing. Many more strides were made by missions 12-17. Every single Apollo mission had its own unique challenges and dangers…and every single one gave us progressive advancements that continue to improve the quality of life for all mankind.
America’s Shuttle (STS) is the only winged, manned spacecraft to have achieved orbit and landing, and the only reusable manned space vehicle that has ever made multiple flights into orbit. Its missions between 1981 and 2011 involved carrying large payloads to various orbits that included segments to be added to the International Space Station (ISS), providing crew rotation for the space station, and performing service missions. The shuttle project gave us both triumph and tragedy, and we explore each of those moments as we discover the importance of this important exploration initiative.
Part of the purpose of our Shuttle gallery and related displays is to convey the value of the Shuttle program and to stress how Americans (and, indeed, the world) benefited from the advancements and discoveries made possible by our experiences and research in low earth orbit.
One of our most popular exhibits, this room allows visitors to experience the sounds and sensations of an actual countdown and launch. This room features a sequencer from Launch Complex 16 that was taken off line as the Cold War wound down. It also contains the Atlas Centaur consoles from launch pad 36A that was last used in January 2005. The entire complex was razed and this console is all that remains of the pad that was active for 40 years.
This space is dedicated to inspiring and entertaining youngsters from ages 5-18. It will feature three separate computers with activities, games and materials for grades K-3, 4-8 and 9-12. This room will also have a coloring and game table for the little ones, dark walls emblazoned with the constellations for educational purposes, and a variety of other age-appropriate books and wall hangings.
Our final hall will feature displays, interactives and information related to the future of the space program. Where are we going next…and how are we going to get there? We are already in discussion with various aerospace contractors on securing displays, manipulatives and models that will help tell the story of tomorrow.