Kansas' premier space museum, the Cosmosphere, gets a major facelift

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News

Kansas' premier space museum — Hutchinson's Cosmosphere — is getting a facelift.

Three of the 12 galleries will get new paint, new graphics and state-of-the-art sound. But the historical documents and spaceships will remain.

During the renovation, visitors may still visit, at a reduced rate, most of the museum, including having an up close look at the Apollo 13 command module, Odyssey. The Cosmosphere's president and CEO, Jim Remar, expects the renovation to be complete by late December — just before the holidays.

“We’re renovating some of the oldest galleries in the Cosmosphere,” Remar said. "Upgrades from this renovation will include better lighting, a more open layout and a truly chronological presentation from early rocketry through the start of the space race."

The three galleries under construction are the German Gallery, the Redstone and Sputnik Gallery and the Kennedy Theater. Each of these galleries opened during the late 1990s. 

Barriers are currently up in front of three galleries at the Cosmosphere as renovations and redesigns have begun simultaneously in the German Gallery, the Cold War Gallery and the Kennedy Theater.

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In addition to shifting around some of the exhibits and the items within them, the Cosmosphere will add new items — like a slide rule, period videos that include launches and testing and new documentation.

"The Kennedy Theater will be 100% demolished and completely redone," Remar said.

The Kennedy room discusses the creation of NASA, President John F. Kennedy's challenges and the firsts in space of both the Soviet Union and the U.S.

"This (the Kennedy Room) will be completely different," said Jack Graber, vice president of exhibits and technology. "This was our first gallery."

Many of the display items throughout the museum are authentic.

"They'll be a lot of blue and red throughout the galleries," Remar said. "This is because of the Soviet Union and the United States."

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The Cosmosphere's collection includes U.S. space artifacts second only to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the largest collection of Russian space artifacts outside of Moscow.

The most crucial phase of the remodeling is the opening up of the rooms and, in so doing, helping visitors understand the timeline, starting with the Germans, of exploring space. 

TheGerman Room is being renamed the V2 Rocket Gallery. V stands for the German vengeance weapons. These needle-nosed rockets were packed with explosives. According to the museum, Hitler saw them as Germany's last chance for victory. More than 10,000 laborers died building the V2 Rockets.  

About 100,000 people visit the museum each year, mainly from the U.S. 

Construction started on the simultaneous renovation of the three galleries on Monday.  

"It's an exciting project," Remar said. "We look forward to sharing it with the public."

Visitors can also enjoy regularly scheduled space-themed documentaries and rotating feature films in Cosmosphere’s Carey Digital Dome Theater. Cosmosphere’s family-friendly Dr. Goddard’s Lab science shows and planetarium shows continue daily on their regular schedules.