Way up on a hill on the north end of Alamogordo, you’ll find the New Mexico Museum of Space History. I’ve been to Cape Canaveral, the Smithsonian space museums, and the Seattle Museum of Flight, so I wasn’t sure how this place would compare. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. Then I stepped into the elevator and suddenly I was in the Space Shuttle!
Before I started my exploration, I (of course!) visited the first-floor restroom. Very cool. If they sold that trashcan at the gift shop, I’d own one right now.
I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of the exhibits and had a great time going from floor to floor. You start at the fifth floor and work your way down. So at the top, there’s the first explorations, from atomic bombs (the Trinity site is at White Sands) and moon landings. I’d never seen a lunar sample return container from the Apollo era, so that was a find.
A few floors down, there was a lovely little moon rock on display. No idea why it wasn’t next to the sample return container. I always like seeing moon rocks, they make me remember seeing the astronauts walking on the moon in black and white as I sat in the living room staring at the TV screen.
Chimps in Space
Cape Canavarel has a good exhibit on the chimpanzees that went to space, which isn’t a part of space history you see a lot. I was happy, then, to see the chimps get there due here, including this Mercury primate capsule.
On the rocket floor, there was a good display of gimbals and how rockets stay oriented to the correct path, starting with the earliest navigation and going through Apollo. Every scrap of this module was made by human hands. We can make amazing tools and do amazing things when we put our collective minds to it.
Humans in Space
Having watched the alternate “history of moon exploration” For All Mankind series (Apple TV), I was already a big fan of the real Deke Slayton. Seeing his hard hat on display here gave me all the feels.
And the same for seeing the actual EKG readings from when John Glenn was circling the earth in Friendship 7. Pretty cool character up there, at least judging by the readings.
One of my favorite tools as a project manager, no matter what job, was the checklist. NASA is big on checklists and I’ve seen several on display in various places. As I looked this one over, I wondered who did the typing and assembly of this obviously very technical and detailed book, handmade for a very specific purpose.
Another space thing I’d never seen: the shoes they wore on Skylab to keep themselves anchored to the floor while working in zero gravity. Pretty clever idea!
Inspiring the Next Generation
There’s a whole wing devoted to all things Star Trek, including this little transporter. I often wish these existed in real life (Doctor McCoy’s skepticism not withstanding) so I could jump me and my Alto from west coast to east and back without having to drive all that way.
Very Hip Restroom
I didn’t need to use this restroom, but I kind of wish I did. Sitting on the toilet, you get that view of the earth from the cupola on the International Space Station. This is making me rethink the wallpaper in my Alto bathroom.
The Museum of Space History is well worth the time. You can see it all in 1-2 hours, and also enjoy a nice picnic lunch outside in front of the building. There’s even a playground for the kids to burn off some energy while you relax and enjoy the views across the Tularosa basin. Look for the white strip on the horizon, that’s White Sands National Park and the adjacent missile range.
Curiosity is the essence of our existence.
Astronaut Gene Cernan
(Gemini 9A, Apollo 10, Apollo 17, 11th person to walk on the moon)