The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson is a must visit for anyone in the Wichita area. The museum building may look small from the outside, but inside it is absolutely jam-packed with a huge collection of space artifacts and replicas. They claim to be second only to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in the number of U.S. space artifacts and to have the largest collection of Russian space artifacts outside of Moscow.
The main level contains all of the shows, including an IMAX Dome Theatre, the Justice Planetarium and Dr. Goddard’s Lab. Each show is ticketed separately or can all be viewed with an All-Day Mission pass. There is also a small restaurant on this level featuring pizza, burgers and the obligatory Space Dots Ice Cream. The gift show (there is ALWAYS a gift shop) contains the usual space tchotchkies, plus a decent assortment of signed photos and other memorabilia.
The museum exhibits are actually below the main level. They are laid out chronologically, beginning with the German Gallery. It contains an actual WWII era V-1 and V-2 rockets on display. From there, you enter the Cold War Gallery which contains a replica of Chuck Yeager’s sound barrier breaking X-1 spaceplane. The Early Spaceflight Gallery is the repository for the Liberty Bell 7 Mercury capsule, which was recovered from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in 1999. The final gallery showcases the actual Apollo 13 capsule as well as full size replicas of a Lunar Module and Lunar Rover.
You know you are in for a treat when you enter the museum lobby and cross under an actual SR-71 Blackbird.
Geeklet’s Favorite: Dr. Goddard’s Lab where the presenter shows what happens when you soak a fuel source (grapefruit sized cotton ball) an in an oxidizer (liquid oxygen) and combine it with an ignition source. WHOOOOSH!