Saturday, September 12, 2009

Titan Missile Museum

I don't know a lot about the Cold War, but from what I learned today, it seems like the scariest time in the history of the world. Or, maybe that was just our tour guides being dramatic, but I'm pretty sure it was really stressful. The United States adopted a theory of deterrence, in which they built 54 of these nuclear-armed Titan II missile silos which would all be fired if we were attacked assuring total annihilation of our attacker. That's 54 nuclear warheads essentially pointed at the USSR 24 hours a day for 25 years.

After the Cold War, most of the silos were dismantled and destroyed, all except the one right here in Sahuarita, which they've turned into a museum.

Here's Lillian in front of the converging-diverging nozzle. Tyler tells me this is how you get things to go super-sonic.

This is the big antenna out front though which would be transmitted any orders. Our tour guide pointed out that this is a pretty obvious target, so there were many back-ups in place. Now-a-days, it's only used by the local ham radio club.

And there's the thing itself. It's really big. Like 9 stories tall. It could be fired in something like 30 seconds, or maybe I'm making that up... but I think it's really not very long at all.

We simulated the actual launch sequence, which actually scared Lillian half to death because of all the bells and whistles it set off. It's a two key system and me and our tour guide Jim both have keys. Notice he's across the room, far enough away that no one person could do it alone.

Tyler had to wear a hard hat because he is so tall. Lillian wanted to wear one too, but I said no because I figured she's probably just want to wear it for 30 seconds, then I'd have to carry it around for the rest of the tour.

This is the safe where the verification procedures were kept. I was wrangling Lillian, so I couldn't pay adequate attention, but the officers had to make sure that the launch orders had come from the President, so they had a series of codes and envelopes that they had to open and make sure everything matched. I think Austin described something like this to me once... so if you have any questions, I would refer you to him.

The tour was interesting and informative and I would have enjoyed it much more if I wasn't alternately making Lillian behave and shielding her from the scary buzzers and assuring her that we were perfectly safe in the elevator because she felt we were seconds from certain death. Also, they talked a lot about the technical specs of the missile itself, and I got lost somewhere between the butterfly valves and the chemical names of the propellant.


Bridget said...

I'm sad we never got to see this! I think acting out the procedure would have given me the heebie-jeebies.

Have you seen the movie Fail Safe? It's a good one.

The Clark's said...

Brad drives by the museum everyday on his way to work but we've never gone. It looks really cool I should tell Brad we should go.

Anne said...

JEEZ!!! That is scary. I know Tyler told me about this yesterday, but it didn't really sink in until i saw the pictures. craziness!

Myriah said...

I never thought of Tyler as particularly tall.

Also, that first picture looks fake. Like a prop someone put together for a movie.

Just writing that comment makes me sad. I apparently have no idea what reality is like.

Rebecca said...

That looks really cool, Amanda!

Good idea not letting Lillian have the hard hat. Atticus would have wanted it too, for sure, then I would have carried it after he tired of it.....probably less than a minute into the trip!

I really like reading your blog btw. You are witty and funny. I usually laugh whilst reading one of your posts, so thanks for that!

Anonymous said...

This looks like one of those places that are clear out in the middle of nowhere like Mom used to take us too...And I always felt like no one had been there in months.

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