The International Space Hall of Fame
Alamogordo, New Mexico

March 20, 2001

At the base of the Sacramento Mountains is the International Space Hall of Fame. A four story pink glass square structure, surrounded by a multitude of flying contraptions from distant and not so distant times in the US space effort. Standing stoically next to this building and reaching almost as tall is one of the last remaining Little Joe Rockets. The solid-fuel Little Joe II was used to test the Apollo launch escape system. Powered by up to nine rocket motors with a combined thrust of 860,000 pounds, Little Joe II could boost a spacecraft on a path which duplicated an Apollo Saturn in-flight emergency. Upon an in-flight "emergency", the Launch Escape System (the rocket attached to the tower on top of the Little Joe II, fired and pulled the spacecraft safely away from the booster. Between August 1963 and January 1966, five flew from White Sands Missile Range. Set against the stark barrenness of a desolate countryside, this monument in the hills presents a startling image as we approached. For a few dollars, an elevator took us to the top floor to begin a meandering walk down a winding ramp that took us through time from the early efforts of the space race to some of the most modern endeavors. On both sides were mockups, models and test modules of the space industry. Much information was posted on the various astronauts and the equipment they used. There was even a space shuttle landing simulator. I tried it and now the space industry is less one simulated shuttle. On the other hand, my wife, Laura, who is now quite accomplished at backing our 21 foot long truck into tight parking spaces, grabbed the landing handles and while pumping on the peddles pulled the stick this way and that and somehow brought the old craft to a rough but safe landing on the very first try. The section, dedicated to the commercial products we accept in our everyday life which were invented or designed for the space program was quite interesting, also the description on the products produced in outer space was fascinating. One display described how larger and better crystals could be grown in weightlessness. Inorganic crystals are important for manufacturing improved integrated circuits and computer chips. Organic protein crystals grown in orbit are useful in the development of drugs to fight cancer and other diseases. Although the museum lacked the Hollywood flare for excitement, it still carried a great bit on interest. I enjoyed it.

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