AFSMM, Cape Canaveral, Florida

Just south of KSC, on a little spit of land rising just a meter or so above high tide, you'll find the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Museum. The first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, was launched from this blockhouse in 1958. A Redstone booster and gantry sit very much as they appeared at the time of that launch, just a few hundred meters distant. Note the "50 Years of Launches" sign. It's still hard to believe this little 'old missile range has become synonymous with U.S. spaceflight. The site is run by a combination of active duty USAF airmen, and retired military volunteers, all of whom are happy to tell stories of their days at the Cape. Check out their superb site.

Hard Boiled on the Hot Tarmac

Sitting forlornly near the Redstone are three boilerplate versions of three very famous spacecraft series (L to R: Gemini, Apollo, Mercury). While "iron capsules" like these served a noble purpose in ground and flight testing - getting dropped, tossed, splashed, and kicked around - these vehicles look a bit lonely now.

 

The Reusable Blue Gemini

Here's one of the more noteworthy spacecraft of all time: the only pre-Shuttle machine flown twice, and the only one with a back door! It's Gemini 2, with the clearly visible hatch opening in the heat shield, which would have provided access to the never flown Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). This USAF "Blue Gemini" (note the U.S. Air Force markings on the hull) program would have been a major military space effort, but was cancelled in 1969. We might have had a manned spy satellite, with a cool "spaceman's sports car" front end, and space station living accomodations, had the Vietnam War not competed for military money.

 

Genuine Collectables & Monkey Relics

Everything from Apollo whiskey decanters to a celebration of Chimpnauts is here for your enjoyment. Several monkeys and apes made a suborbital trip before NASA felt human beings could do the same. Looking at this chimp couch (far right), I'm thankful later primates got better seating arrangements.

And speaking of favorite primates, here again (near left) is one fictional astronaut's motivation. The museum has momentos of many celebrity visitors, but here's a montage of my personal favorite NASA spokesperson: actress Barbara Eden as "Jeannie."