Space Race In Kansas – Overland Expo West 2015


I’ve been to the Cosmosphere in Kansas before, on the way to my first Overland Expo in 2011. I was just about to leave to start the big trip, and it was something of a shake down for the Ural. I learned a lot about traveling with the Ural on that trip, mostly that it wasn’t ready for the trip I wanted to take, and that it was too much motorcycle for what I wanted to do. The caused a sudden, last minute change to my 250, Curiosity. I wonder, sometimes, how different my trip and the years since would’ve been if I hadn’t been faced with this last minute challenge.

When I stopped at the Cosmosphere the first time, it was an impulse based on seeing a Point of Interest marked on the map. That trip ended up having a lot of space things on it, but it was still early and I hadn’t really thought about a theme. I hadn’t expected much, a small space museum with models and posters, maybe a short movie. What I found was a satellite museum of the Smithsonian, and the best collection of Soviet Space memorabilia  outside the Russia.

Photo May 11, 11 36 05 AM

While I’ve frequently brought the Cosmosphere up as favorite place occasionally, I haven’t been back since that first visit. Since I was taking a similar route (Cliff has a similar speed and range to the Ural, and slightly worse gas milage), I figured this was the year to go. I’d left early and found a park near Hutchinson, Kansas to sleep in (it’s a bit easier to just park anywhere in the RV), but was a bit slow in the morning and arrived at the museum around lunch time. I will admit to still adjusting to having all the food and cooking resources of Cliff. I was still adjusting.

The map makes the museum look rather small, but it’s deceiving. There are a lot of little rooms, and thousands of words to read on all the displays. Here and there are short video presentations, one on the success rates of USA rockets before NASA really got going,

Photo May 11, 1 00 17 PM

And a personal favorite from the cold war

Photo May 11, 12 41 07 PM

There are other amazing things on display, such as the actual command module from Apollo 13. Yes, the one they really went to space in, completely refurnished.

Photo May 11, 1 42 08 PM

Things that have been in space are cool.

There is also one of the two remaining Luna Sphere. Five were made, one was lost in space (it missed the moon), one just lost, one landed on the moon, and two are in the USA. One is in Kansas.

Photo May 11, 12 58 13 PM

It was a total propaganda move, landing these on the moon. There is a complete timeline of the Soviet Space program, contrasting it with the American one at several points. It’s a long read, matched with the actual Soviet space tech on display. I spent a lot of time there, though the parts where it trends into the rest of the cold war (while also interesting) I skipped over most of it. I was having an odd itch to get moving. Oddly enough, the same thing happened my first visit, after spending a few hours inside. Perhaps I was just too recently back on the road.

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