CAPE CANAVERAL — A new museum devoted to preserving the history of the nation's space program will open this week just outside the gates of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The U.S. Air Force Space & Missile History Center is in the auditorium of the old Space Florida building next to Gate 1, also known as the South Gate, at the air base.
An offshoot of the Air Force Space & Missile Museum, which is located in a secure area of the base, the new museum will be free and open to the public six days a week.
On display at the museum: an exhibit that tells the story of each launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which was established in 1949 as the nation's Joint Long Range Proving Ground.
"It's a start. It's a foothold outside the gate," said Jim Banke, secretary of the board of directors at the Air Force Space & Missile Museum Foundation. "It's a way to tell the story of the Cape."
The foundation operates a museum located at Complex 26, the launch site for Explorer 1, America's first orbiting satellite and the nation's response to the Russian launch of Sputnik. Nearby is Complex 5/6, the site where Alan Shepard blasted off on a Mercury-Redstone rocket and became the first American to fly in space.
The on-base museum is open to the public through a bus tour at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex or a monthly Air Force tour that requires reservations. Banke said the new museum aims to serve a broader portion of the public.
"This has the potential to be a major tourist attraction," Banke said.
An invitation-only dedication ceremony will be from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. today Friday. The museum will open to the general public Saturday.
Contact Halvorson at 639-0576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.