Home Is Where We Park It: UMOM New Day Centers, Phoenix
Nov 4, 2109
Temperature 88 Degrees
Let The Projects Begin!
Titan Missile Museum – Part Two
Time to move out and – start painting again!
Today was the start of our two month NOMADS stint. We’ve got a lot to do, setting up Christmas Trees, Christmas decorating, Christmas package wrapping, putting in a bathroom, rebuilding outdoor shelters, and of course a lot of offices and apartments to paint. Here is our crash cart
one of the rooms we are working in
the paint is going on
and Barbara is learning how to spackle.
We’ve started and we’ve got a long way to go. More about UMOM and our projects in future blogs.
Tonight we are going to finish our visit to the Titan Missile Museum. Yesterday, we covered the Titan II missile and the silo that housed it. Now, we’ll view the facilities that are still intact at this complex.
The underground facilities consist of a launch control center, the eight level silo containing the missile and its related equipment, and the connecting structures of access tunnels, blast locks, and the access portal and equipment elevator. The complex was built of steel reinforced concrete with walls as much as 8-foot-thick in some areas, and a number of 3-ton blast doors sealed the various areas from the surface and each other.
One hour guided tours are offered of the facilities. On this tour, we descended 35 feet into the underground missile complex. We visited the launch control center and experienced a simulated launch of the missile. Then we journeyed down the cableway to level 2 of the missile silo to get an up-close look at the Titan II missile itself in its silo.
Our guide on our tour was Murray.
This is the way down
I counted them, yes, there are 55 steps.
At the bottom of the stairs you encountered the first of two 3 ton blast doors. Everything on this side of the blast door, meaning the stairs and landings, were considered a soft area and likely to be destroyed if the complex was hit with a missile.
You passed through this blast door, went down a hallway through a second blast door, then made a left and entered the launch room. In theory everything on the other side of the two blast doors was considered a hardened area and could survive a direct missile attack. That was the theory!
This is the actual launch room.
At launch, orders from the National Command Authority would have specified one of three pre-programmed targets which, for security reasons, were unknown to the crew. This missile base was, at the time of closure, programmed to strike Target Two. The missile’s computer could hold up to three targets, and the target selected was determined by Strategic Air Command headquarters. To change the selected target, the crew commander pressed the appropriate button on the launch console. Target 2, which is classified to this day but was assumed to be within the borders of the former Soviet Union, was designated as a ground burst, suggesting that the target was a hardened facility such as a Soviet missile base. Targets could be selected for air or ground burst, but the selection was determined by Strategic Air Command.
As part of the tour one individual did a simulated launch of the Titan II missile.
The facility’s highest state of alert was November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was shot. When news of the shooting broke, the keys used to launch the missile were ordered to be placed on the tables at the launch consoles to prepare for a possible launch. The Pentagon did not yet know whether the Soviet Union had committed an act of war. The keys were not, however, placed in their switches.
The keys mentioned above were typically kept in the red safe in the launch room.
Remember in yesterday’s blog we talked about how four butterfly valves controlled the flow of propellant to the stage one engine. And how one of those valves was controlled by an electronic lock that could only be unlocked by a secret code that had to be entered by the launch crew? This is where that code had to be entered. Without the code the engine could not be started. This prevented an accidental or unauthorized launch of the missile.
Launch crews consisted of four individuals,a Crew Commander and Deputy and two enlisted individuals. Each crew was on duty for 24 hours and while underground the only time they were allowed to be alone was when they were in the crew quarters. Otherwise two had to be together at all times.
We have the crew locked in underground. In the launch room. How then did they communicated with the outside world?
The antenna to the left and outside of the wire is soft and was permanently deployed. The antenna to the right was a backup and kept in a hardened underground vault and was raised only if necessary.
These are two of the scoop-shaped units that projected a motion-sensing Doppler radar beam
Had an intruder been detected – which never happened – the crew did not investigate rather they called the adjacent Air Force Base to send Security Police
Leaving the launch room, this is the cableway that led to the silo and the Titan II missile.
Regarding the silo that contained the Titan II missile
This is a picture of the missile in the silo showing the retractable platforms around the missile that allowed access to the missile for maintenance. Note the fuel handler standing on one of those platforms.
During the history of the Titan II missile there were five fatal accidents. The most spectacular occurred on September 18, 1980 when a maintenance worker standing on one of these platforms accidentally dropped an eight pound socket which bounced down the silo eventually hitting stage one of the missile and creating a massive fuel leak
which led to an explosion that killed one man and injured twenty-one others. The 760 ton silo door came to rest 700 feet away. The warhead was found several hundred feet away, damaged but intact.
These are pictures of a test launch of the Titan II missile. What appears to be smoke in the beginning is actually water vapor. As the stage one ignited streams of water were directed at the base of the missile and then the resulting steam was vented outside.
This silo became operational in 1963 and was deactivated in 1984 as part of President Reagan’s policy of decommissioning the Titan II missiles as part of a weapon systems modernization program. All operational Titan II silos throughout the country were demolished, except this one.
Work to turn the missile site into a museum began in February of 1983. By September of 1985 all the pieces were in place and all the necessary parties were in agreement. The Air Force would retain ownership of missile site 571-7, but lease it to Pima County. Pima County, in turn, would sublease the site to the Arizona Aerospace Foundation for the purpose of operating the Titan Missile Museum.
The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in April of 1994, in recognition of the important role that the Titan II played in American history. There are fewer than 3,000 historic places in the United States that bear this national distinction, and this status is rarely conferred on sites that are less than 50 years old. Launch complex 571-7 was just 31 years old when it achieved its landmark status.
Since opening its doors, the museum has hosted more than 1.5 million visitors from around the world. Parts of the Star Trek ® movie First Contact were filmed at the museum. Additionally, the Titan Missile Museum was featured on the History Channel in two separate series in August of 2007: Lost Worlds: Secret A-Bomb Factories; and Mega Movers: Army Mega Moves. In 2012 it was featured in the reality TV show The Great Escape on TNT. The museum was also featured in a short documentary on nuclear tourism by National Geographic. Finally, the museum was featured twice on the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum series.
This brings to a close our visit to this unique piece of American History. It was definitely a worthwhile visit for us and one we are so glad we were fortunate to visit. Once again we learned yet another valuable lesson about our country’s history.
Almost forgot, yup, bought a new T-Shirt
Time now to call it a day on The Road of Retirement. Morning will come soon enough and with it yet another bucket of paint. Knowing that, good night to all, and to all a good night.
Thanks again for coming along with us. We always appreciate your company and your comments. Catch you again tomorrow.
These are the voyages of Graybeard and it’s two intrepid travelers. Our continuing mission: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have never been before
See you on down the road!