REVIEW: The Liberty Bell 7 at Planet Comicon [History Tour]

Some of my fondest childhood memories were my trips all the way over to Hutchinson, Kansas for me to attend Space Camp. I didn’t grow up wealthy in any way, and I know it was likely expensive, but I am very thankful that my parents allowed me to attend such an awesome experience at that age. One would think that all “Space Camp facilities would be limited to areas around Cape Canaveral and Houston, but it seems to be a little known fact that Hutchinson, of all places, houses one of the top space museums in the country – the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. To drum up interest, and market the museum to the KC area, The folks from the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center had a “booth” at this year’s Planet Comicon, held in downtown Kansas City, with a traveling exhibit of Liberty Bell 7, The capsule that allowed Virgil “Gus” Grissom to become the second American into space.

The Liberty Bell 7 at Planet Comicon; Kansas City, MO

It’s honestly a miracle that Liberty Bell 7 even exists today, as it famously mis-fired its capsule opening mechanism too soon, and nearly drowned Grissom in the process. The capsule was later recovered in 1999. Sadly, this was not Grissom’s only brush with death in relation to faulty doors, as he tragically died along with his fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee on January 27, 1967, during a pre-launch test for the Apollo 1 mission at Cape Kennedy, Florida.

Background:

According to Wikipedia:

“Mercury-Redstone 4 was the second United States human spaceflight, on July 21, 1961. The suborbital Project Mercury flight was launched with a Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle, MRLV-8. The spacecraft, Mercury capsule #11, was nicknamed the Liberty Bell 7. It was piloted by astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom. The spaceflight lasted 15 minutes 30 seconds, reached an altitude of more than 102.8 nautical miles (190.4 km), and flew 262.5 nautical miles (486.2 km) downrange, landing in the Atlantic Ocean. The flight went as expected until just after splashdown, when the hatch cover, designed to release explosively in the event of an emergency, accidentally blew. Grissom was at risk of drowning, but was recovered safely via a U.S. Navy helicopter. The spacecraft sank into the Atlantic and was not recovered until 1999.”

And For Planet Comicon according to their website:

“Planet Comicon Kansas City is the largest comic book and pop culture convention not just in the Kansas City area, but within this entire region of the Midwest. It has a 20 year history, with the first Planet Comicon Kansas City being held in Overland Park, KS in March 1999. The 2023 show is our 23rd show and will be held at Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City. We will be adding information as the show approaches to help you find out more about what is offered at Planet Comicon Kansas City.”

Reading(s):

You honestly can’t find a better book on this topic than Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, published in 1980. It has been a LOOOONG time since I’ve read this or seen the film (like twenty years), so I will rectify that soon. It is a novel, but rooted in historical events in order to give readers a real glimpse of what was happening with our last real generation of real explorers.

“From “America’s nerviest journalist” ( Newsweek )–a breath-taking epic, a magnificent adventure story, and an investigation into the true heroism and courage of the first Americans to conquer space. “Tom Wolfe at his very best” ( The New York Times Book Review ) Millions of words have poured forth about man’s trip to the moon, but until now few people have had a sense of the most engrossing side of the adventure; namely, what went on in the minds…”

The Trip:

This was located in Planet Comicon as a featured attraction in 2022, but the capsule is normally located at the Cosmosphere. Since I was already at Comicon this year, this was just the icing on the cake for me.

Conclusion:

It was awesome seeing this set up at Comicon, and I honestly hope they do something like this more often. With these big “pop culture” conventions trying to take in a bit of science here and there, something like this is definitely a way to both drum up attention for a museum, but educate everyone as well. I may not be able to do it this year, but I hope to make a trip to Hutchinson again pretty soon, and see what crazy new stuff the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center has to offer.

See More:

The Website for the Kansas Cosmosphere

The Cosmosphere’s 60th Anniversary Liberty Bell 7 page

Wikipedia article

For more local history excursions, click HERE

Planet Comicon information

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