2012 Road Trip Photos #35: the Kansas Cosmosphere, Part 2 of 2: Starship Parts Catalog

As we saw in our previous installment, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas, provides a good, safe home to many retired spacecraft and spacecraft understudies. Their collections are a comprehensive tribute to those pioneers and daredevils who yearn to see mankind reach beyond our spatial boundaries and discover what else lies in store for us in God’s universe.

Ad Astra per Aspera, Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

Their international galleries gather items from all across the world, related not only to rocket science and aeronautics, but also to the sociological implications and side effects resulting from so many collaborative efforts and/or scientific competitions. To that end, one case displays one of the last fragments torn down from the Berlin Wall in that fateful year of 1990.

Berlin Wall fragment, Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

One of the most curious exhibits, which my wife and I both failed to photograph, was the final display before you exit the main exhibit hall — a nod to the private companies presently competing to see who’s fittest to take NASA’s place in the space race. Known entities such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and several relative unknowns worldwide are each developing their own game plans for braving new frontiers that interest the American government less than ever. By placing vast resources in the hands of the right talents, those companies are challenging our travel limitations and pursuing an enviable dream.

Careful perusal of the technology and gadgetry on display throughout the Cosmosphere reveals a wealth of reference material for assembling new rocketships in the comfort of your very own corporation.

Naturally you need engines to power your ship and escape Earth’s atmosphere. If you stand in this exact spot and find yourself flash-fried, you’ll know they’re working five-by-five.

Rocket engine nozzles, Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

You’ll need a fuselage to contain your rocket engines. This German model is a bit small, but serves as a template from which you can extrapolate a much more gargantuan vehicle.

German rocket, Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

The fuselage needs to be large enough to contain things such as astronauts, research equipment, tools, and astronaut food supplies. Leg room should be considered an optional feature to include in your upscale models for a modest surcharge.

rocket chamber, Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

If you’re concerned about the possibility of intelligent life beyond our planetary domain and paranoid about their chance of malevolence, you can bring along weaponry such as this decommissioned warhead. In my opinion, though, you should really just relax.

warhead, Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

For employees who can’t join your maiden voyage into space for whatever reasons, you may wish to consider installing a control panel like this authentic Houston unit at their desk. It’s up to you whether to wire their switches and buttons to create real consequences when they’re flipped or pushed, or to design them as a harmless gewgaw that creates pretty lights and beeping noises to distract your earthbound second-stringers from interfering with the vital, delicate tasks being performed in the heart of space.

Houston control panel, Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

Keep in mind that not every human is suited for the rigors of space travel. You’ll need to administer tests that instill nausea, claustrophobia, isolation anxiety, and various forms of gravity-based internal damage. To lull your applicants into a false sense of competence, you can begin with this simple yet elegant hurricane chamber, which ostensibly subjects patrons to a series of buffeting, piercing winds that simulate the sensation of a real hurricane. My wife and I survived our ordeal inside the tube without any lingering physical damage, and our financial losses amounting to one lonely dollar we won’t miss. I remained skeptical about the machine’s verisimilitude, even before Superstorm Sandy struck the east coast a few months later and retroactively redefined this moment in a more humbling light.

hurricane wind simulator, Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

Applicants who pass your battery of tests with flying colors should be rewarded with the spacesuit of their choice, all the better to chart new territories in comfort and style, assuming they’re strong enough to wear several dozen pounds worth of gear without collapsing.

astronaut spacesuits, Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

If your intrepid crew of explorers has been especially good, have this added bonus of a space restroom installed in their ship. Considering the alternatives, they’ll be eternally grateful.

bathrooms in space, Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson, Kansas

To be continued!

[New readers and completists: be sure to check out the 2012 Road Trip checklist for the ultimate reading guide, still in progress. You can also add your name to the new MCC Facebook page to receive notifications of new posts (if you know the proper workaround) and lend your voice and support to MCC in general. Thanks for reading!]

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