Have you had enough of being snowed in? Looking for something different to do this year for spring break? Need a road trip or just somewhere to get your family out of the house for a bit? Here are four fantastic reasons to visit the museum in 2014.
1. Affordable family outing – The admission prices to the museum are cheaper than going to the movies, water parks, or even activity centers. At prices starting at only $7 for adults, families can afford to bring their kids and their friends with them. Mention a membership with AAA and the adult price comes down to $5. Veterans, senior citizens and large groups also receive the discounted admission price of $5. Students 5 years to 18 years old are only $2! And if you’re under 5 years of age you’re free. Are you on your way yet?
2. New Exhibits – This year the museum will be debuting new exhibits from a broad range of the space era. Already underway and nearly finished is the latest full scale replica joining the museum’s already stellar collection of such exhibits: The Apollo. The Apollo is a full scale high fidelity replica of an actual Apollo spacecraft as it appeared on its trajectory path to the moon. Weighing in at over 6,000lbs, the replica is built of wood and metal, is 30’ long and nearly 13’ in diameter. It features a hatch door and command module accentuating the human element to the craft. The Apollo space craft carried over 30 American Astronauts, including Weatherford’s own, General Thomas P. Stafford, who flew two Apollo spacecrafts.
The museum will open another new gallery in 2014 of the Hubble COSTAR (Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement). The COSTAR developed by many NASA engineers (including General Stafford) and staff spent 11 months preparing a mission to send the COSTAR to the Hubble to correct its defect in its mirror, obscuring its camera for images of space. After the one week job on the Hubble by shuttle astronauts, the repair was a success. Now all instruments placed on the Hubble have built in corrective optics for any future mishaps and the COSTAR is no longer needed. The Stafford Air and Space Museum was able to obtain it in 2013 and will have it on display by the second half of the year.
And yet another exhibit going up this year is the return of the beloved F-104 Starfighter jet that once sat outside on the Historic Route 66 highway and runs right through the heart of Weatherford. The Starfighter was removed and replaced with the sleek F-4 Phantom Fighter Jet in 2012. The F-104 received a complete restoration including a sharp paint job bringing it back to a ready-to-fly glow. The F-104 will be mounted erect directly in front of the museum’s entrance doors and will be visible to drivers on Rt. 66 and Interstate 40. This concept was designed by General Stafford and plans are to have it in place by late spring.
3. If reasons one and two aren’t enough to get you out the door, then try this: Oklahoma Strong. The Stafford Air and Space Museum is the only museum in Oklahoma dedicated to one of the eight astronauts that hail from our great state. Gordon Cooper, Fred Haise, Stuart Allen Roosa, Owen Garriott, William Pogue, Shannon Lucid, and John Herrington have flown space missions, making Oklahoma the only state to have astronauts in every American Manned Space Mission. Ranging from the first mission with the Mercury “Original 7” to the recently retired Space Shuttle missions, Oklahomans have made their mark in the space industry. Interestingly enough, Weatherford’s Southwestern Oklahoma State University is the home of many stars of the mission control staff, including the most famous, John Aaron. Aaron is credited with the saving of Apollo 11, 12, and 13 missions. The state of Oklahoma can call itself a true space pioneer.
4. Size is surprising – Located on Route 66, the museum serves as a fun attraction for Route 66 visitors from around the world. Based on its appearance outside, the metal building appears to be small. Walking into the lobby visitors might think “okay this is it”. But after being greeted by friendly staff, visitors soon realize there is more than meets the eye. Following the entrance into the museum, you are introduce into the life of General Stafford featuring his memorabilia from childhood to retirement. Then you glide into the breathtaking Wright Flyer exhibit and suddenly lose track of time and a sense of where you are inside the building. Following the path, the adventure begins with the development of flight soaring through the Bleriot airplane and the Curtiss D Pusher and into the Spirit of St. Louis. Just in passing of the Spirit of St. Louis you are transported into early rocketry with a full scale Sputnik and Explorer I, not to mention the giant F-1 engine staring at you with its funnel lit in red. Still entranced, visitors then fly into the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Galleries. Truth be told, the museum is more than an acre of exhibit space. But the outside can tease you, hiding its size and saving if for only those who venture in.
Always delighting its visitors, the museum is a welcoming retreat, as they can submerse themselves into a captivating and enthralling experience of aerospace history, leaving exhilarated and inspired of a time when we dared to dream.