When my wife and I moved to Tucson several years ago, I was thrilled to learn there was a nearby Titan missile silo that had been preserved as a museum. For years now, I've been planning to visit, but life always got in the way. That all changed last weekend though, when my wife mentioned she wanted to get out of the city for the day and do something different. This was my chance. And here are the results:
We started our day with Google Earth. A friend had recently mentioned, over dinner, that the museum was actually part of a network of former missile silos located around the city, and that if you did a little digging, you could find the other decommissioned sites. It didn't take me long to find this KMZ:
There are eighteen sites in total. Holy crap! Since I live on the east side of Tucson, I decided to start with the closest one, which is #5. We jumped into my wife's Jeep and took off. Twenty minutes later, we were there. We were kind of far away, so you can't really tell what you're looking at, but the metal dome is supposedly the roof of the command capsule - the shock isolated underground structure where the people who waited for launch orders sat and waited. I think the round structures may be old stairwells. There's a big rectangular low spot, off to the right, where I believe is the former silo was. Everything is supposedly filled with concrete now, part of the destruction process carried out when the missiles were decommissioned.
As you can see, there's graffiti all over the place. I guess I'm not the only one who shares this fascination.
Next stop was the Titan Missile Museum, in Green Valley...
Here's the control room.
The tunnel (on springs, like a giant slinky) connecting the control room with the actual missile.
The Titan II Missile from inside the silo
And last, but not least, the Titan II from above
If you're ever in the area - run, do not walk, to this museum. It's that good. I left at the end of the day with a whole new appreciation for the insanity of the cold war. The engineering required to stuff a rocket of this size in a hole in the desert floor is just ridiculous. Not to mention that it carried a nine megaton warhead, which is enough firepower (with an airburst at optimal height) to knock down buildings NINE MILES AWAY. Absolutely insane.