Full Coverage: Cosmosphere's new gallery|
Cosmosphere, Carpenter open gallery
June 18, 2005 -- Bathed in blue light, a statue of United States President John F. Kennedy sits in a rocking chair. Opposite him, red-lit, standing and fist-raised high is a full body bust of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
Visitors to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center's Mollett Early Spaceflight Gallery, which opened today to the public, pass beneath these two figures as they enter, setting the stage for the Cold War-driven space race they will witness inside.
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The contrast between red and blue - U.S. and U.S.S.R. - is emphasized throughout the new gallery, which presents a multi-media look at the early space exploration efforts of the two adversarial nations. The disparity between the color-lit areas is bridged by the proximity of the artifacts to each other. Never before have the separately devised spacecraft and spacesuits been so close for comparison.
The Mollett Gallery houses the flown two-person Gemini X spacecraft, a flown Russian Vostok spacecraft similar to that ridden by Yuri Gagarin, and an engineering model of the spacewalk-capable Voskhod, as well as spacesuits used for those spacecraft.
The gallery will be expanded in late 2006 with the return of Gus Grissom's Mercury spacecraft, Liberty Bell 7 to the Cosmosphere. The capsule is presently wrapping up a six-year nationwide museum tour.
"The Mollett Early Spaceflight Gallery is really an anchor for the entire Hall of Space Museum," says Cosmosphere President Jeff Ollenburger. "By focusing on the incredible early days of human space exploration, we see the starting point for everything that is happening in space exploration today."
In addition to the display of the historic vehicles, visitors are taken back in time, to the blockhouse and launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Peering through the Blockhouse 5/6 periscope, museum- goers can watch films of rocket launches - witnessing the same images NASA flight controllers saw during the early 1960s. They can then step outside for a launch encounter of a different kind.
Standing in a representation of the Cape's Titan Rocket Pit, visitors can hear the Mission Control chatter and rocket countdown sounds of Mercury and Gemini launch- day activities. They can then climb the gantry next to the engines of the 100-foot Titan rocket that propelled Gemini spacecraft into the stratosphere.
Back inside, the exhibit leads viewers to the Hutchinson museum's Apollo exhibit, which includes Odyssey, Apollo 13's Command Module. The United States' successful lunar landing program brought the space race to a close.
To officially open the new gallery, the Cosmosphere held a reception on Friday evening for its sponsors, members and board of directors. Addressing the guests were Roger Launius, Space History Chair at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; Laura Shepard Churchley, Alan Shepard's daughter; and Mercury original Scott Carpenter.
Said Carpenter of the new exhibit, "This is a spectacular display of space flight history." Carpenter and a young female attendee of the Cosmosphere's Future Astronaut Training Program held the gallery's opening ribbon for its namesake donor, Clarence and Mary Jane Mollett to cut.
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Construction begins on spaceflight gallery
November 19, 2004 -- When the Mollett Early Spaceflight Gallery opens to the public in the spring of 2005, visitors to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center will have a rare opportunity to view the spacecraft and spacesuits that began the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The Cosmosphere, located in Hutchinson, Kansas, today announced that $750,000 in private donations had allowed construction to begin on the new gallery. Two-thirds of the needed funds were gifted by local residents Clarence and Mary Jane Mollett, for whom the new gallery is named.
The Mollett's also arranged a $1.5 million deferred gift to the Cosmosphere's Foundation and the combined amount of $2 million represents one of the largest gifts in the history of the museum.
"As long-time supporters of the museum, Mary Jane and I have never been more impressed with all the activity and future plans for the Cosmosphere," said Mr. Mollett.
The 4,000 square foot gallery will bring some of the Cosmosphere's most important artifacts to the museum floor. It will include historical archives from both the American and Soviet programs, including the spacesuits used during the Mercury and Gemini, and Vostok and Voskhod programs. The gallery will feature the flown Gemini X spacecraft, a flown Russian Vostok, a full-scale engineering model of the Voskhod, and will be the final home of Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft after the completion of its national tour in 2005.
"When Liberty Bell 7 returns, the Cosmosphere will be one of only three locations in the world to have a flown Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft," said President and CEO Jeff Ollenburger.
"From an exhibit standpoint, this is an important project for us that, in many ways, will be the anchor gallery for the entire museum. By focusing on the incredible early days of human space exploration, we can see the starting point for everything that is happening in space today."
Fundraising for the Mollett Early Spaceflight Gallery will continue through the completion of the project in spring 2005, and a list of all donors giving $1,000 or more will be permanently displayed at the gallery's entrance.
To date, major corporate contributions have also been made by American Packaging, TSW Products Co., First National Bank, Fee Insurance, Kwik Shop, Inc., and Pipeline Testing Consortium, all from Hutchinson, and Cessna Foundation in Wichita.
"A project of this size takes a tremendous amount of support" said Ollenburger, "and we are very pleased that so many of our long-time friends and supporters of the Cosmosphere from both Hutchinson and the surrounding area have helped make this project a reality."
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