The US Space and Rocket Center has a travelling exhibit on Dr. Wernher von Braun open until May. I went with my father, hoping that this exhibit would be more museum-ish than my last visit
I started out with paying my respects to Miss Baker, the squirrel monkey who traveled to space. She’s buried near the entrance to the Space Center. I remember when I was a kid, there were always bananas at her grave. There weren’t any there this time, though. I suppose it is getting too hot and buggy here in Huntsville.
Inside the Space Center kids ran around. It was the last day of Space Camp, and some kids were dropping some serious cash in the gift shop on t-shirts and little stuffed monkeys in space suits.
I was a little bit worried about the exhibit when we walked in and this is the first thing we saw:
a “Rocketpedia” entry on von Braun. Coupled with the bicycle “believed” to have been used by von Braun’s younger brother as he pedaled in search of Americans to surrender to at the end of World War II, I was worried the whole exhibit would be full of non-items.
There was a cool documentary video playing in segments throughout the exhibit, so I was sure I’d know a lot more about von Braun by the time I reached the last display case. But I was worried that the inspiration level would be on par with bupkis.
But around the corner the cool factor started climbing. Check out this group of badasses.
|Wernher B. is the second from the right.
This is what gets me excited. Old ephemera. You can feel the past.
|WvB’s calender for July, 1969
Von Braun’s calendar from 1969 was one of my favorite pieces on display. He drew through each day with a red pencil and a ruler after it was finished. Each line matched up precisely.
Next was von Braun’s desk.
|Von Braun’s desk at the USSRC
There’s his Hugo award in the foreground. If you look just behind it, you can see his daily to do list. He would write everything he had to do for the day on a sheet in his notebook. As he completed the tasks, he would fill in the bar that ran through the center (those are the red bars in the center of the pages).
Von Braun also had a pretty awesome Moon globe on his desk.
There were lots of photographs of von Braun – looking dashing, cutting ribbons, trying out spacesuits in submersion tanks, and walking on the Moon.
There was also a section that had “the inspiration of the rocket scientist as a young man” as its theme, with lots of amazing retro art.
And one of his journals, open to a sketch he made when he was 15 years old, of a manned rocketship.
At the end of the exhibit, there were three giant panels with a quote from von Braun:
My friends there was dancing here in the streets of Huntsville when our first satellite orbited the Earth. There was dancing again when the first Americans landed on the Moon. I’d like to ask you, don’t hang up your dancing slippers.
I was rather sad when I read these words. It was only a few months ago that I attended a celebration at the Space & Rocket Center for 30 years of the space shuttle – and its end.
Overall, I enjoyed and learned a lot from this exhibit. I hope the US Space & Rocket Center has more exhibits like this in the future, and less traveling shows like CSI and such. What would I like to see an in-depth presentation on next?