Space and Missile Heritage Center preserves past to conserve future

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shane M. Phipps
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
Located at Space Launch Complex 10, Vandenberg's only National Historic Landmark, the Space and Missile Heritage Center sits on hallowed ground from the Cold War era.

Operated by a former missile maintainer, the museum's primary function is to facilitate an understanding of the evolution of missile and space-lift activity at Vandenberg, from the beginning of the Cold War through current space endeavors.

"My job is to kind of be the Indiana Jones of the Cold War with one hat and with another hat, be Bill Nye the science guy," said Jay Prichard, 30th Space Wing curator of Vandenberg's Space and Missile Heritage Center. "I find the story, preserve the culture that tells the story and then interpret that story to various audiences, whether they are a group of school kids, retired military members, or young Airmen going through training."

For students working to become future space and missile officers, a tour of SLC-10, and the heritage center, is an opportunity to better understand the proud legacy they are joining.

"It is essential to know our heritage," said 1st Lt. Hermes Silva, 533rd Training Squadron student. "I'm very grateful to be able to come out here and learn more about our culture as space operators. I definitely feel like this will help us down the road, as we can be more useful to the Air Force if we are familiar with our past. It's also cool to be inspired by the pioneers who came before us and see how we are continuing on the path they laid out."

Incorporating a combination of launch complex models, consoles, rocket engines, re-entry vehicles and hands-on interaction, Prichard hopes his program will ignite a sense of ownership within everyone who comes through his doors.

"My personal mission is to create an environment where, when people leave from here, they can feel like they own the space and missile business," said Prichard. "I want them to be able to go outside, look up at the night's sky and think -- 'that's my operational domain.' I don't care if that's an Airman from the Medical Group, a civilian in the Civil Engineer Squadron or someone working in the Joint Space Operations Center, it doesn't matter because we're all a part of it."

Complimenting a variety of visual displays, Prichard's knowledgeable and passionate anecdotes submerge visitors into, a sometimes forgotten, Cold War history.

"His stories really help make the history interesting," said 2nd Lt. Kanit Dararutana, 533rd Training Squadron student. "It makes me want to listen more and makes the whole tour a lot of fun. I would definitely bring my unit out here to enjoy a barbeque and while our food is cooking, we could check out all the great things the museum has to offer."

Prichard's passion often proves contagious as he focuses on injecting life into a Space and Missile history that remains relevant today.

"Delivery is everything," said Prichard. "My job is really about being able to relate to the audience in a way that makes it all receivable. I have to bring it life, and I enjoy being able to bring this to people and see them own it. That is an extremely rewarding experience. I had a little elderly lady come up to me once and she said 'I'm so excited. I didn't even know I was interested in this stuff.' That is what it's all about for me."

For more information on Vandenberg's Space and Missile Heritage Center, contact Jay Prichard at 805-605-8300.