Walking through the door, volunteer workers greeted me with friendly expressions and readily offered me a tour of the museum. Various hands-on activities were spread out in the exhibit, which ranged from a touchable control panel to weights that demonstrated how objects are much lighter on the moon. Smaller artifacts filled multiple shelves and model rockets were set on tables. Covering the walls, signed paintings and photographs filled every available space while plastic models dangled from the ceiling.
Although many of the interactive artifacts intrigued me, the small collection located in the center of the main room captivated me the most. Unlike the majority of museums where the artifacts are encased in glass barriers, this exhibit encourages visitors to touch and interact with nearly all of the items, allowing me to unleash my inner child. From adjusting the murky, tinted sun visor on an Apollo space suit helmet to rubbing my fingers through the timeworn fabric of gloves worn by a Soviet cosmonaut, I was astounded by every small detail each item possessed.
Space Station Museum co-founder and president Ken Winans has pledged to help educate the younger generation about the history of space exploration. In regards to the complimentary admission, he has committed to sharing his personal collection of U.S., Russian and Soviet artifacts with the public.
“I’m a big believer in giving back to the community. If we all did that, if we all gave back, our society would be a much better place. And also, space is a positive. Who doesn’t like space?” Winans said.
Winans said using his collection for a greater cause has been the most rewarding aspect in his creation of the museum.
“Collecting is a lot of fun, but I’ve had a lot more fun sharing the collection with the public and young people and [people] of all different backgrounds,” Winans said.
Additionally, Winans said he feels strongly about developing youth volunteers and believes that they are an integral part of society and the museum team. Redwood senior and Space Station Museum volunteer Payton Glenn recently started working at the museum and has been able to express and expand his passion.
“To me, the museum is a place where I can use all this knowledge that I have self-acquired about space exploration and space programs. I have always been passionate about it, interested in it—now I have a place where I can share what I know and then through the questions I get asked, and through discussions with guests, I learn things myself,” Glenn said.
The Space Station Museum is free to the public and is open Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Taking a couple hours out of your weekend to visit this exceptional resource, containing an abundance of stimulating artifacts and memorabilia, is definitely an out of this world experience.