Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review: The U.S. Space and Rocket Museum in Hunstville, AL

The SECOND reason for our recent trip to Hunstville was to see this much-hyped museum.  I say "much hyped" because they produce a fantastic Space Camp in the summer for middle school-aged through college-aged kids.  In fact, the museum's official website is, which should tell you something.  If it doesn't tell you anything, I'll tell you what it tells me, after having visited the place: they put way more money into their space camp than they do the museum.

The museum is actually two buildings: the Main Museum and the Davidson Center for Space Exploration.  The visitor entrance is actually in the latter building, which we did not know, so we parked much farther away (in the rain) than we should have done.  We thought the visitor's entrance would be at the Main Museum.  This sort of illogical design is a hallmark of the museum, as you will see.

However, the Saturn V Exhibit Area in the Davidson Center is wonderful.  It is well designed and presents a thorough look at the development of the Saturn rocket series, the space race, and the 17 Apollo missions to the moon.  Moreover, just in case you don't happen to be an astrophysicist or an aeronautical engineer, the various placards, short videos, etc., all explain everything in non-esoteric language.

After spending more than an hour in this exhibit, we made our way (through the rain again) to the Main Museum.  Thanks to the weather, we had to forgo Rocket Park, and the G-Force "ride" was closed due to technical difficulties, naturally.  But we still felt like we were learning a lot, having fun, and on the way to getting close to our money's worth (the place is pricey).

Then we entered the Main Museum.

My first question is, Who designed this place? Anyone?  Seriously, it looks like someone said, hey, we've got all this stuff, let's make a museum out of it.  And then proceeded to do so without any regard to logical placement of items, providing information to those unaffiliated with the space program (like the vast majority of visitors), or even having any of it make sense.  Stuff is scattered all over the place.  A few activities escape this scathing comment, like the climbing wall.  But most don't.  Even the Team Redstone exhibit makes very little sense to the uninitiated.  We sort of wandered around in a daze, learning very little and feeling like we'd just thrown dollars and dollars down the drain.  Thank heavens we first stopped by the Visitor Center downtown and got coupons; but it still cost us more than $70 for a family of four.

The IMAX film, "Magnificent Desolation" is fantastic.  It was entertaining and very informative.  Also, it's shown in the Spacedome Theater.  Instead of just a large IMAX screen, the film is projected on the domed ceiling, so it's extra huge, perfect for a space film!

All in all, my pervading thoughts are that this could be a state-of-the-art museum, but it just isn't.  It's really a waste.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't visited your blog in a couple of weeks, Ellen;it's looking fabulous. I'm glad you've received some inspiration about writing your devotion. I will try to wait patiently until Lent to read it, but maybe you should post an advanced copy here.



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