It is the only museum of its kind in the United States. If you love history, space technology or are just curious about missile silos this is a great place to stop by and tour (on the hour). The tour starts with a brief description of the Titan program and its mission of deterrence through fear of mutual total nuclear destruction. It must have worked because none of the missiles were ever launched. Today's missiles are very different and much smaller. Security in such a compound is fascinating as were the plans for the crew's survival of an actual launch. The technology seems old by today's standards but in its time it was the beginning of a technologically rich space program.
The briefing is followed by a long climb down stairs or by taking an old elevator (I did stairs down and elevator up). First up was the command room. It is in this room that an order to launch would be received and executed. There were many small but important checks in place to keep one individual from being a rogue 'button pusher'. The crew did not know the destination target, thus keeping any emotionality out of their duty. The gentleman in the red shirt is a volunteer who led our tour. The command center is a calming green color. If you take the tour you will learn so much more than I can write in this blog.
Then, down a long corridor to the actual silo where the missile is housed. The corridor can be a pedestrian shot (like mine) or an artistic rendering of multiple images that create a completely different effect (like Tom's). You can trudge along my corridor or feel like a crew member might have felt of being transported quickly into another world. Tom achieved the look and feel by imposing another image, that of the inside of one of the lift off rockets (stage one engine) which I will show you later.
This missile, like all Titan missiles is decommissioned. To prove that it is not active, the top of the silo is cut away so that satelites can see that it is not armed. I am not sure which surprised me more, how small the missile was or how big it was. Phyllis got the best photo in showing both the fueling line (top) and communication/electrical lines (bottom black).
In the image below you can see the cut away window at the top. There was a lot of attention paid to minimizing the vibration, heat and fire from a launch. If I recall correctly, the pads seen at the top are part of that protection.
In case you missed the details, there are signs that explain the basics.
Once topside you can look down into the silo. Notice that 'cut out' yellow hole? That is to show that the missile is not armed.
Topside there are exhibits showing the different rocket stages, an old security jeep that might have responded to a call of an intruder on the site and a tanker truck that would have supplied fuel to the rocket. It was here that I found the most interesting shapes, designs and color. The image below is a close-up of the inside/rear of the first rocket that is fired on a missile's launch. You might recognize the geometric lines that Tom used from his similar image to create the illusion of movement in the long corridor!
The image below is of the third rocket that fires. It is called a vernier motor and fires after the second stage rocket completes its lift of the rocket. It is a solid fuel motor that fires only seconds to stabilize the speed and direction of the missile.
And finally, in a complete throwback to an earlier time . . . a security vehicle that would have responded to a report of a possible intruder. The bird was a nice touch!
From the museum we drove south on Highway 19 to Tumacacori. That is the next blog. Feel free to leave a comment, especially if you have been to this museum and would like to share your thoughts.