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From Space Suits to Space Rocks

Bonne Terre Museum Inspires Future Generations

Bonne Terre, MO has its past rooted in the mining industry but is quickly getting a new reputation for preserving and honoring the U.S. Space Program, thanks to resident Earl Mullins’ long-time passion and hard work.

In 2003, he leased the old Water Department building, flooding it with his personal, expansive collection of space memorabilia that he started as a young boy. However, launching the Space Museum proved to be a challenge and really didn’t “take off” until recent years. But Earl, who is even more than a dreamer…is a doer. And his perseverance and big dreams have led to accomplishing even more than he anticipated, and of course, the “sky’s the limit.”

In 2014, Earl Mullins began a new addition to the original Space Museum, with the help of  some of the men who were part of the space program themselves. A small group of retired engineers who had been part of the Mercury 6 team at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis joined Earl and other local volunteers nearly every weekend to expand the museum to include The Grissom Center, named in honor of Gus Grissom—one of NASA’s seven original Mercury astronauts, who died on Apollo 1. The new annex was opened last spring, with five astronauts and 500 people in attendance.

Serving on the board of the non-profit Space Museum are Lou Mavros, Dean Purdy and Earl Robb, who were all involved in various portions of the design, testing and delivery of the one-man Mercury, two-man Gemini and seven-man space shuttle, as well as the Sky Lab program, which led to the successful landing of Apollo on the moon. Other board members are Debbie House, Steve Thomas and Dr. Stephen Haug. 

With Earl’s personal collection, and those items he obtained in coordination with NASA and the State of Missouri, the 5000 sq. ft. museum now houses $30 million in space artifacts including a flag taken into space by Gene Cernan of Apollo 17, who was the last American to walk on the moon. There’s even a space toilet (along with an explanation of how that particular bodily function worked in space). The displays document the history of U.S. space exploration in great detail and the volunteers do a good job of explaining that history and answering any questions. The talking “humanoid” robot is a fun surprise, and all will enjoy the “Shuttle Experience.”

Earl says the museum is dedicated to his passion for space advocacy and his desire to inspire others to adopt those same ideas that carried us to the moon. They declare in vivid detail how the impossible became the possible, and how a dream became a reality.

“This comprehensive space artifact collection is a testament to a way of thinking, the type of thinking that allowed our country to place a man on the moon in a single decade. As long as we are given the opportunity, we will continue to use those artifacts of mankind’s greatest achievement to inspire future generations to do even greater things,” he says.

The Museum challenges, entertains and inspires thousands of students and community groups each year by providing on-site and in-school educational programs, and with its periodic “out of this world” events. For more information and museum hours, check the website at Space-Mo.org/.