Saturday, February 14, 2009

Titan Missile Museum, Green Valley, Arizona


Image your job is to carry out the order from the President of the United States to launch the largest nuclear missile in retaliation of a nuclear attack. That was the pressure and enormous responsibility faced every minute by the 4-person crew who manned the underground Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) silo during the Cold War.

Today 53 out of 54 Titan II silos have been destroyed, except for the deactivated missile #571-7 which is now the Titan Missile Museum. This is the only museum of its kind in nation, preserving how the silo stood 20 years ago (devoid of the rocket fuel and of course its nuclear warhead). Completed in 1963 and in operation until 1987, the Titan II missiles were a retaliatory weapon to be used to stop a nuclear war, with the primary mission of providing “Peace Through Deterrence” as we learned during our visit. The museum contains some informative and interactive displays that give you the context of the missile’s importance in the world’s recent history. The main attraction, however, is the one hour tour that takes you underground to see parts of the silo’s three facilities.


The tour starts with an educational and informative 15 minute video that provides an overview of the silo and its operation. You then proceed with a tour guide to see all the above ground rocket fuel delivery systems, a stage I & II rocket engines, antennae, and an impressive straight-down view of the missile from the partially opened hatch. Finally, you actually go underground to level 2 (out of 8 levels), where you can see the rocket up close as well as the control center where your tour guide performs a simulated missile launch. We learned from the simulated launch, that once the order came from the President and the launch sequence had been activated, there was no way to stop it and no self-destruct mechanism once in flight - simply the missile would lift-off in a few short minutes and proceed to it’s target. Done. For Brad this was one of the most unique and truly one-of-a-kind experiences that he's ever had. For Suzanne, although she found it interesting, if she were the one writing today's post, it would be more reflective of what she heard: "Blah blah blah missile. Blah blah blah silo." But seriously, you don’t have to be a military buff to enjoy this experience. This is a must visit if you are in the Tucson area.


This tour cost $8.50 for adults and $7.50 for seniors. (There is a AAA discounts of $1 on the adult ticket prices.) It is wheel chair accessible. In addition to this one-hour tour, the museum offers many special tours that take your through all 8 levels of the underground silo, to private tours, to even an overnight stay in the quarters where the women and men slept while taking a break. These special tours require reservations so call ahead.



2 comments:

Mike Goad said...

There is also a Minuteman silo open in South Dakota. We stopped at the visitor center, which is near one of the entrances to Badlands National Park, but we would have had to have waited around for more time than we had available and I knew Karen really wasn't interested that much.

I spent a few hours in the missile control center on a missile submarine. I wasn't a missile tech so it was more along the lines of just hanging out in a different part of the boat.

One time in port, though, they had all of the normal access points tied up with loading and unloading material and there wasn't going to be any way to get on or off the boat. I had shore liberty that day and left the boat by way of a lift they had rigged on the inside of a Polaris missile tube. (I hadn't thought of that for years! I left the boat about 32 years ago.)

Mike Goad (at home in Arkansas)
Haw Creek Out 'n About

Jerry and Suzy said...

Thank you once again for a heads-up on a place to visit. And thank you especially for remembering to mention accessibility. That makes a real difference to us.

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