This sprawling museum contains an enormous trove of aviation treasures. It houses the world’s largest combined collection of United States and Russian aircraft and is packed with over 13,000 gems including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane, the Liberty Bell 7 Mercury spacecraft that was recovered from the ocean floor, and the Apollo 13 command module.
Amazingly, this world-class museum had extremely humble beginnings. It was born in the Poultry Building of the Kansas State Fair Grounds in 1962 when its founder, Patty Carey, set up a secondhand planetarium projector and some folding chairs on the site and transformed the building into one of the first public planetariums in the U.S.
The planetarium was a hit and, as such, continued to expand and changed locations. By 1980, it had morphed into an impressive space and science center. It was later expanded again in 1997, allowing for an actual SR-71 Blackbird to be parked in its lobby.
Now, it houses one of the most impressive aviation collections in the world. Its top-tier collection spans the entire Space Age, ranging from the earliest rocketry experiments up until modern times.
Wander through, and you’ll find artifacts you can’t see anywhere else in the world. Each item on display is either a real flown artifact, a backup option to something that was actually used, or a replica created with painstaking historical accuracy.
Interestingly, the museum has also helped Hollywood. Its staff built about 80 percent of the props used in the famous Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13.