It is eight:30 within the morning and already the Arizona solar is punishing the asphalt, shrubs and any residing creature silly sufficient to face underneath it. Like me. I am glad I will be spending the subsequent few hours deep underground.
Close to the place I am standing, on this hillside south of Tucson, is a 150-foot-deep (46m) silo that when housed one of the crucial harmful forces ever created: a Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile. Over 100 toes (31.4m) tall, 10 toes (3m) vast, and able to delivering a 9-megaton nuclear bomb wherever inside 9,900 miles (16,000km), it functioned as a nuclear deterrent, and in a special position, launched the boys of the Gemini program into house.
Really, it is nonetheless there. Form of…
The Titan Missile Museum is likely one of the solely nuclear missile silos open to the general public, and the one one from the Titan program. Most have been decommissioned and destroyed, though some 400 of the smaller Minuteman III missile silos are nonetheless in use.
It is an enchanting place. Past the parking zone and customer’s heart, the floor portion of the ability remains to be largely how it will have seemed in its heyday. Floor-level radar emitters and receivers, retractable antennas after which the huge bolstered concrete roof over the missile itself. This stays partially and completely open, a glass sunroof protecting out the weather, letting guests peer down into the silo from above. The Titan II itself looms inside.
However I am not fairly there but. First cease is the customer’s heart, with its memorabilia and reward store. I get to bypass the standard security briefing, having been right here earlier than and getting particular entry for CNET. The director of the museum, Yvonne Morris guides me on a tour herself (as she does as soon as a month on the Director’s Tour).
We step again out into the solar and head over to a small hatch and stairway, the one entry to the underground complicated. As soon as out of the warmth, the acquainted scent of a navy facility greets my nostril: metal, concrete, and as Yvonne informs me, hydraulic fluid.
On the base of the steps, huge metal doorways safe the ability from any form of assault. The Titan II silos weren’t designed to outlive a direct strike, but it surely was hoped they’d make it by way of a near-hit.
The principle hall is one thing out of a film. Sickly-green paint covers metal decking and hydraulic dampeners. Hoses and cables run alongside the partitions. We’re roughly within the center. To the fitting, a great distance away, is the silo itself.
We take the shorter hall to the left. Solely a handful of males lived and labored right here. I think about it was a nerve-racking job. This a part of the ability is in regards to the measurement of a small home. The principle degree is the Launch Management Heart, with banks of early computer systems and sufficient dials, readouts and warning lights to double as a sci-fi B-movie set.
Upstairs is the principle residing space. The bed room with its bunkbeds is pretty spacious, the curved wall a reminder of the place you’re. Subsequent door is the kitchen, replete with a slightly anachronistic LCD TV and DVD participant. A duplicate of “Dr. Strangelove” sits on the counter. After all.
A museum worker units off the missile launch countdown, a staged recording in fact. It is eerie in individual, and the 360 video under hopefully captures a few of that feeling.
Then we begin the lengthy stroll to the missile. The cableway is as overbuilt as something I’ve ever seen. Extra just like the bowels of a battleship than a… nicely, OK, that is technically a bunker to guard troopers from nuclear assault. So perhaps the frilly redundancies and substantial help beams are fully applicable.
Forward I can see open door and one thing steel past. An anteroom encircles the spherical silo. Inside sits the missile. Safety doorways have been opened and changed with glass for a greater have a look at the Titan II missile itself.
It is unusual seeing considered one of these up shut, and from this angle. In different museums they’re both on their aspect, or stood vertically however with out viewing platforms so you may solely stroll underneath or round them. Right here, you are about degree with the highest of the higher stage. Search for and you may see the reentry automobile. Look down… it continues down into the Earth. You may’t see the underside from right here.
A small elevator takes us down. 5 tales right down to the bottom of the missile. Right here, the bizarre has transitioned into the creepy. Entering into the silo itself, I am beneath the Titan II, staring up its size to the daylight seeping in from far above. It is virtually chilly this far down, the warmth of the day above a distant reminiscence. The grated decking just isn’t for the faint of coronary heart.
The silo continues two extra tales under, ending in concrete channels that funnel the exhaust from the twin rocket motors again up the peak of the silo and out into the ambiance, ought to the necessity come up.
Now, although it is all empty house. The rocket motors are gone. The missile is empty — actually, a museum piece from a special period.
We return to the principle degree, stroll down the lengthy hall, then into another elevator. It creeks upward, finally breaking the floor, and liberating us into the solar.
A step into historical past
The Titan Missile Museum is an unbelievable and distinctive expertise. It is not like anyplace you’ve got seen earlier than. Until you are a trekkie, that’s. The museum and missile had been used as a set and prop in “First Contact,” as near Trek film as we “ST:TNG” followers received. As I explored the ability, I puzzled if Hugh Howey had visited right here and received impressed to put in writing his sensible “Silo” sequence.
There are a number of excursions out there. The fundamental tour covers Launch Management and the highest of the silo. The extra elaborate excursions allow you to see much more, just like the residing quarters and beneath the missile. On one tour, you may even keep in a single day.
The Titan Missile Museum is an enchanting look into historical past, and if you end up in southern Arizona (within the winter, I hope, on your sake), I extremely suggest checking it out.
In his alternate life as a journey author, Geoff does excursions of cool museums and places all over the world together with nuclear submarines, medieval castles, iconic music studios and extra. You may comply with his exploits on Twitter, Instagram and on his journey weblog BaldNomad. He additionally wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel.