Sunday found us traveling south on Interstate 19 towards Nogales. An interesting fact about this highway, is that the “mile” markers are actually “kilometer” markers.
Our primary destination for the day was the Titan Missile Museum located 20 miles south of Tucson in Sahuarita. We decided to save the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for Monday – mainly because we got a late start to the day Sunday, and also, we were told it’s best to leave ourselves plenty of time to enjoy the Desert Museum.
We checked online and found out the museum isn’t dog-friendly, so we had to leave little dog “Coach” in the Coach with the air-conditioners set at 72 degrees.
Here’s the entrance to the museum parking lot which is right beside the gate to the missile silo located behind the building.
The museum entrance.
Once again, we were able to use the coupon book we purchased at the FamCamp office for $15 and got in for half-price. A very reasonable $9.50.
And here’s a view of the missile silo.
This is the last of the Titan Missile sites. (Click on the “green font” for a link to wikipedia) The Titan II missile is the largest missile ever built by the United States. During the Cold War, 54 Titan II missiles stood alert in their underground silos all across the country. In 1987, the last Titan II was deactivated.
The Titan Missile Museum website tells us:
“At the Titan Missile Museum, near Tucson, Arizona, visitors journey through time to stand on the front line of the Cold War. This preserved Titan II missile site, officially known as complex 571-7, is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 to 1987.
Able to launch from its underground silo in just 58 seconds, the Titan II was capable of delivering a 9-megaton nuclear warhead to targets more than 6300 miles (10,000 km) away in about 30 minutes. Nowhere else in the world can visitors get this close to an intercontinental ballistic missile in its operational environment. This one-of-a kind museum gives visitors a rare look at the technology used by the United States to deter nuclear war. What was once one of America’s most top secret places is now a National Historic Landmark, fulfilling its new mission of bringing Cold War history to life for millions of visitors from around the world.”
The nose cone that housed the 9-megaton nuclear warhead.
The 9-megaton nuclear warhead: Yeah, I’m sure it’s the actual one 🙂
After a short wait, we were ushered into a small conference room for an orientation and video presentation.
Then we were herded out the back door of the museum building to the silo entrance.
The docent-guided tour consisted of several different volunteers. At the silo door entrance, a couple of the volunteers explained the procedures the missile silo crews had to go through to access the highly-secure facility.
We then walked down 55 stairs. Here’s one of the “blast” doors that had to be accessed to enter the facility.
Here the volunteer-guide points to the second “blast” door. The first one has to be closed and secured before the second one can be accessed.
Then we walked through one of the tunnels to the control room.
Entering the control room:
And here it is – the missile control room aka launch control center:
The launch keys were locked in the cabinet on the left in the photo below.
The guidance control panel.
The tour-guide told us this is the lunch clock… never to be confused with the launch clock.
More keys… these were mostly for important places like the mop closet and paint locker though.
Side view of the command console position.
The entire underground facility was protected against shock with these giant springs.
After our tour of the control room (complete with simulated launch demonstration) we went down the long cableway (tunnel) to the silo:
After going through another “blast” door, we got our first view of the missile.
Some of you may already know that several scenes in the 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact were shot at this site. The missile itself was depicted as the launch vehicle for the film’s Phoenix spacecraft, the first warp prototype.
We had to view the missile through glass panels that were installed in place of the doors:
After everyone got their pictures, the volunteer tour-guide led us back down the long cableway (tunnel) to the stairwell where we came back topside.
Then we were let loose to wander the grounds on our own.
A metal ramp provided access to the top of the partially open silo door.
At the top of the silo door, we could take pictures though the glass panels.
The hole you see cut out of the side of the warhead is to prove that it’s inactive. I learned that the 103-foot-tall missile had to be left outside for a month so that Soviet spy satellites could verify it no longer carried a payload.
Rocket engines were on display under cover near the silo:
What a cool tour and awe-inspiring place. Another “must-see” to add to your list if you haven’t been there yet.
On our way back out, we went through the gift shop and asked about the nearby copper mine. We heard they offered tours that were supposed to be pretty cool. Unfortunately, the copper mine is closed for tours on Sundays and Mondays. Oh well, guess we have to save something for next time, right?
After we left the Missile Museum, we stopped in for a “cold one” at the American Legion Post 66 that is located just outside the entrance gate. It’s been quite a while since we were in an American Legion Post. I used to be a part of the American Legion Riders (motorcycle club) back in the ’90’s when I was stationed at Fort Carson. I don’t belong to any specific post now, but have a “paid-up-for-life” or “PUFL” membership card. It was a nice place, with good prices and free popcorn. You can’t beat that! Too bad, the American Legion Posts and VFW posts aren’t as RV-friendly as the Elks Lodges…
And with that, we called it a day and headed back to the Agave Gulch Campground to see if little dog “Coach” was being good. He was.
Check back in tomorrow (Monday) for a full recap of our visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum…