69. Soviet Spacecraft in the American Heartland: The Story of the Kansas Cosmosphere  🚀


There are many sites on earth that played a role in human spaceflight. But Hutchinson, Kansas isn’t one of these sites.

Despite this, Hutchinson—a town of 40,000 people—is home to the Cosmosphere, a massive space museum. The Cosmosphere boasts an enormous collection of spacecraft, including the largest collection of Soviet Space hardware anywhere outside Russia. How did all of these space artifacts end up in the middle of Kansas?

To find out, I visited Hutchinson to talk to Cosmosphere curator Shannon Whetzel.

"I think some of our brochures say, 'why not Kansas,' right? The story of the Cosmosphere is more or less the right place at the right time." -- Shannon Whetzel

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In this episode, Whetzel says that her favorite Soviet artifact at the Cosmosphere is the Lunasphere, a sphere covered with medallions stamped with the emblem of the Soviet Union and the year 1959.

Only two are known to exist on earth, and both now live in Kansas: one at the Cosmosphere, and the other, a gift of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, about two hours away in Abilene at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum.

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I asked Whetzel about how teaching of the Apollo program has changed with each younger generation and she answered immediately: kids today are horrified by the amount of trash humans have left on the moon, from the propagandistic Lunasphere pendants to poop bags left by the Apollo astronauts.

Regular listeners know that I'm obsessed with building a museum on the lunar surface at the site of the Apollo 11 landing, poop bags and all. If you're looking for a poetic description of what those lunar landing sites look like today, Michelle Hanlon, a space lawyer who volunteers with For All Moonkind, delivers on episode 32 of Museum Archipelago. On several episodes of Club Archipelago, I also go deeper into what a lunar museum might mean for people 50 years from now. Join Club Archipelago today to get access to this and all Club Archipelago episodes.