While most space museums focus on the astronauts and spaceships that have pioneered the unknown, there is one unique complex that honors the humble workers who have made our country the world leader in space exploration.
In Titusville, Florida, where many Apollo-era space workers lived, the American Space Museum & Astronaut Walk of Fame has its emphasis on those who fabricated the spaceships, twisted the bolts on the launch gantries and flipped the switches to activate the complex systems that together made the United States space program the pioneer in exploration of our Solar System the past 50 years.
Heading to Disneyworld this Summer? You’ll not be disappointed to pull off I-95 and head down Route U.S. 1 to the American Space Museum and the astronaut monument park in Titusville. The outdoor tribute to astronauts is free, and for just $10 bucks you can be up close and personal with some one-of-a kind artifacts of the space program.
The American Space Museum (ASM) is unlike any Smithsonian or astronaut museum you’ve been to. In fact, it is more like a space geek “man cave” with an over-abundance of relics from Kennedy Space Center donated by space workers, many who lived in the Titusville area in the 1960s and ‘70s. The NASA swag will cause a sensory overload for the die-hard space lover.
And that’s a good thing. The ASM is in transition to future upgrades of displays and showcases. And it is very interactive, including weekly Saturday programs for students as part of the national movement called Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM).
The Astronaut Walk of Fame was born out of Titusville’s desire to honor the brave men and women who pioneered America’s efforts in the 1960s Space Race against the former Soviet Union. Hand prints in bronze of the first groups of astronauts were made to replicate those of the famous Hollywood walk of actors, and they are featured at the Mercury and Gemini “Space View Park” along the banks of the Indian River, overlooking the famous launch pads of Cape Kennedy.
The tribute continues to wrap around downtown Titusville with handprints of many Apollo astronauts surrounding a statue of the famous “A” logo of the Moon program. There you’ll see an incredible life-size bronze likeness of President John F. Kennedy, frozen in time during the famous speech he delivered to challenge Americans to go to the Moon by the end of 1969. Which NASA workers did twice that year.
And the most recent addition to the Astronaut Walk of Fame is, of course, a marble, four-sided monument to the Space Shuttle orbiters and crews. Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour, Atlantis, and the test Shuttle Enterprise are honored in unique graphics depicting all operational phases.
Mixed between the Apollo and Shuttle monuments are a half-dozen, four-sided columns that are the tribute to the workers who laid their hands and minds on the development of America’s space program. For a $100 donation to the AMS, these unsung heroes of NASA have their names, job and employer etched on a plaque for posterity.
But one of these space worker columns has a sad ring to it, the tribute to those NASA contractors who perished in the line of duty. Some died in tragic falls off gantries and the iconic Vehicular Assembly Building. Others perished when exposed. Several were killed in vehicle accidents at the space centers in Florida and Houston, Texas. These deceased space workers gave their lives in the ultimate sacrifice for space exploration, just like the famous astronauts who died in Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.
The outdoor Astronaut Walk of Fame can be visited anytime for free, as many enjoy lunch or an evening stroll amid the shrines to Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Shuttle and space workers. But the nuts and bolts of the more than 500,000 people who made space exploration a cornerstone of American ingenuity are inside the American Space Museum a few blocks away.
In transition to upgrade and expand, the American Space Museum has a definite mission direction: to preserve achievement and inspire innovation. That mantra includes the preservation of the history of the US space program; to honor our nation’s astronauts and aerospace innovators; to educate current and future generations about the sacrifice and cooperation of the early space program; and to inspire the next generation of scientists, innovators and explorers who will take our nation in new adventures in space.
The ASM has working consoles you can sit in front of from the Space Shuttle control room. There is the actual firing room from the Atlas Launch Pad 36A, and more launch pad electronics to thrill any space geek. There are detailed replicas of the Shuttle launch pad and Kennedy Space Center displayed among the flight hardware of spacesuits, gloves, manuals, access badges and all sorts of space flown memorabilia.
There are three rooms dedicated to unique items from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo—too much space stuff to name. But John Glenn’s hardhat and Gus Grissom’s NASA coveralls are super cool to see. One room is a tribute to the fallen astronauts of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.
You don’t have to be a space geek to enjoy the American Space Museum and Astronaut Walk of Fame. The entire family will find something to marvel upon. And the visit will leave you with a greater appreciation of not just the famous astronauts, but the blue and white color workers who made America the leader in all things outer space.