I’ve been on vacation for a week with no internet connection *shudder*, so pardon me while I catch up. You get to see some of my vacation pictures (which always reminds me of the Night Gallery episode “Hell’s Bells).
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is one of the newest in the park service. There’s actually three separate sites – the launch control center, one of the missile silos, and a temporary museum, all just east of Wall, South Dakota along Interstate 90. We did the right thing by calling ahead, because we found out that a retired missilier volunteers his time one day a week and gives tours of the launch control center. The park ranger was extremely nice, but there’s nothing like hearing the story from one who lived it in the 1970’s at the height of the Cold War.
They show a couple of films at the temporary museum, one about the Cold War and one about how the 66th Strategic Missile Squadron operated until the signing of the START treaty in 1991. The Minuteman II was retired soon after, though the Minuteman III is still on duty. The ranger and I talked shop about the solid propellant used in the Minuteman, which meant faster launch time and less maintenance than the Titan.
The Delta-9 missile silo was one of 10 controlled by the Delta-1 launch control center. Sorry there’s not any better pics, but we got there too late, and the gate was locked.
The outside of the Delta-1 launch control center doesn’t look like much.
Inside, Delta-1 looks probably much like it did in the 1970’s – orange cabinets in the kitchen, groovy carpeting in the living area, blacked out windows in the sleeping quarters (with Air Force blue blankets on the beds). Thirty feet below is the bunker, where a two-man crew would be on duty for 24 hours.
The retired missilier told us about taking turns napping, staying awake by reading (several missiliers earned degrees because of the “free” time), talking to the other control centers, and the probability of surviving a “near miss”.
Next post, lots of pics from the South Dakota Air and Space Museum.