Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (8 June 2005)

After spending the morning at Badlands National Park, I made my way back out to exit 131 on I-90 (where I had entered Badlands National Park) to the modular building serving as the temporary home of Minuteman Missile Nation Historic Site, where I met our tour guides. Both were retired USAF: One had been a missile launch operator; the other, an MP.

The tour had two parts: First you visit the site of a missile launch control, then you go out to a missile silo. The launch control site is split into above ground and below ground. Above ground outside, you see the radio antennas, the incenerator where they'd destroy used code books, and the armored vehicle used by the MPs; inside you see command and crew quarters, the mess hall, the recreational area, and the access to the launch capsule, which is located about 50 feet below ground.

You take a freight-like elevator down to the launch capsule. When you get out of the elevator, the first thing you see is a mural with a Minuteman II missile ripping through a Soviet flag. Cool! Then you see the foot-thick door to the capsule, which is painted like a Domino's Pizza box, except it's "World-Wide Delivery in 30 Minutes or Less". One of the guides joked about how it should've been "hot" delivery, heh heh.

The "capsule" where the two-man crew would, given proper orders confirmed by a crew at another capsule (so there was redundancy between capsules as well as with the two-man crew), launch missiles from the 10 sites they controlled. It took both men punching up certain codes and turning their keys simultaneously to launch.

Yeah, the capsule pictures are geeky. Since I'm teaching Intro to Engineering to kids at ERAU these days, and since we're trying to impress on them the multidisciplinary nature of the engineering world, especially the aerospace world, the fact that the contractor who built the electronics was Boeing, subcontracted to RCA, mattered to me. Also, I wasn't sure what else to take pictures of.

We then proceded to exit 116 to the actual missile silo. I was disappointed when I found out we wouldn't go down into the silo and see the missile close up. Instead, they had the concrete cover of the silo pulled back with a plexiglass cover installed. Sorry for the crappy and repetitive nature of these parts of the photos. I was kind of stumped as to how to capture what was there.

It was a great visit. Eventually, they will get a visitors center built, complete with a film, so the park rangers will have fewer details to cover and those on the tours will have more background before embarking on them. If you grew up during the cold war, this is a great visit.

Oh yeah. I stopped at Wall Drug Store and had some pie on my way to Deadwood, South Dakota where I played a little blackjack and spent the night. For all its tourist-trap elements, Wall Drug is still a real drug store, the only one in Wall. A local lady was picking up a prescription while I was there. There's one Wall Drug photo in the bunch.