Did technology drive war, or did war breed technology? At the Cosmsphere, guests are invited to look into questions like this one and many more as they make their way through the Hall of Space museum, which features not only an astronaut experience gallery and an Apollo gallery, but also galleries for the World War II and the Cold War.
The Cosmosphere began in 1962 in the poultry building on the Kansas State Fairgrounds. It was with a stargazer ball used for the planetarium projector and rented folding chairs that the now Smithsonian affiliated space museum began.
Though Hutchinson, Kansas may not be the first place you would expect to find a space museum, the Cosmosphere draws space enthusiasts from around the globe.
The museum is home to the largest combined collection of U.S. and Soviet space artifacts in the world, and it boasts the largest collection of U.S. space artifacts outside of the Smithsonian.
“I think people aren’t prepared for what they will see here. For example, we have the Apollo 13 capsule the Odyssey, the Gemini 10, we normally have the Liberty Bell 7, but it’s on loan right now to the Children’s museum of Indianapolis,” said Mimi Meredith, Vice President of Development at the Cosmosphere. “There are all kinds of fun things that people weren’t expecting to find anywhere, let alone in Hutchinson.”
The integration of the World War II and Cold War galleries into the Hall of Space museum may seem like an odd choice, but by doing this, the Cosmosphere poses an interesting question. Did technology drive war, or did war breed technology? Though these wars may not immediately come to mind, they each introduced critical technologies and played specific roles in the space race.
“That B2 rocket was really the first propelled item that went into space. It came from Goddard’s lab, where he was the first person to really have a successfully liquid-fueled rocket. And so that, in Hitler’s regime, was the first ballistic missile. And it really became an instrument of terror,” Meredith said. “So it tells that story, not only of those rockets but also the lives that were lost producing them. It’s a very sobering exhibit, but it also makes you appreciate how far we’ve come.”
“I think for anyone that visits the Cosmosphere, there’s first that sense of awe and wonder. People can’t believe it’s in Hutchinson,” Meredith said. “Then the story that’s told here, of people like Patty Carey, our founder, who wanted people to look up to the stars and not just see then and thing ‘there are stars’ but to wonder what’s there.”
In addition the Hall of Space Museum, the Cosmosphere is home to Dr. Goddard’s lab shows which feature live demonstrations and even a few explosions, the Carey digital dome theatre, and more. The museum offers a variety of great educational programs, too.
“Math and science and technology are critical. They aren’t just something to be endured, or for some students, to be relished, you know those very scientifically minded students, we aren’t just for them, we’re for all kids to understand that science has an application in everything we do in life. It’s amazing.” Meredith said.
“Set aside a day [to visit.] It’s a fascinating experience,” Meredith said.