A broad desert valley floor in southern Arizona holds an incredible array of aviation artifacts. The Pima Air and Space Museum displays a remarkable number of historic flying vehicles in a sunny, dry, preservative outdoor environment.
This bubble-headed airplane played a major role in getting Apollo to the Moon. One of the more unusual fuselage signatures of all time is the appropriately-named "Super Guppy." It is a member of the Boeing Model 377 family, which evolved into the military C-97 Stratocruiser/Stratofreighter series. This vehicle's huge 25 ft (8 meter) diameter cargo bay and 41,000 pound (18,600 kg) payload capacity swallowed an entire S-IVB third stage of the Saturn V for the trip from the factory to the Cape. Check out the superb All About Guppys site to get all the details on this unique family of aircraft.
As of mid-2001, the entire space section was made up of replicas. They are fine replicas mind you, but with luck some actual flight hardware might make it into Pima's collections.
The legendary X-15 research vehicle, a rocket plane who some like to call the first U.S. spacecraft, is represented by an impressive high fidelity full scale model. It wears the markings of X-15-2A, tail number 56-6671.
The other spacecraft exhibits are somewhat modest: a Mercury mockup sits inside a small floatation collar, looking very much like a fiberglass sparkplug (right). However, the Apollo replica is a bit more impressive: it is the Command Module mockup used in the well known HBO television series "From the Earth to the Moon." Fictional TV anchorman Emmett Seaborne (portrayed by actor Lane Smith) of the equally ficticious National Television Company (NTC) used this high fidelity model as a reference during his special news reports of the Apollo lunar missions.
A small but notable exhibit depicts model spacecraft from Werner Von Braun's visionary 1950s exploration epic "Man Conquers Space," featured in Collier's Magazine. This included the now classic toroid/doughnut space station, winged Earth return vehicles, and spherical cluster Moonships. Von Braun's building block scheme, which bore little resemblence to the accelerated "crash" course we actually took to the Moon, represents the pinnacle of imagined manned exploration of the Solar System.