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Unfamiliar Land

Titan Missile Museum

Tucson, AZ


Titan Missile Museum was originally published as part of a larger story, Atomic Road Trip Through America’s Southwest. If you enjoy reading about scientific and military oddities from the Cold War, click here for more.

On a desert road trip through Arizona and New Mexico, I visited the Titan Missile Museum. This decommissioned ballistic nuclear missile silo is just 20 minutes from the Tucson airport. It’s the only one of its kind that’s been preserved as a museum in its original state. Retired Air Force veterans lead tours down underground into the crew area, launch center, and past the Titan II missile itself. Each section is built from concrete and steel that rests on massive springs, designed to protect the silo from the shock waves that follow a nuclear blast.

The inside of the silo carries a silence and weight to it, like being inside your own tomb. Servicemen stationed here would have known there was little chance of survival in the retaliatory strike that would have followed a launch against the Soviet Union.

At the end of the tour you can buy postcards and t-shirts, old Civil Defense emergency supplies, even real components torn out from other decommissioned nuclear missile silos. On my return flight, TSA didn’t know what to make of my souvenir blast door control panel.

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