NASA’s Apollo 11 landing on the moon almost 50 years ago sparked a wave of space-inspired commercial products. Shops all over the country sold rock-shaped lamps, skateboards with rockets painted on them, and tons of astronaut figures.
After the last moon expedition this excitement slowly died down. Space age relics were mostly left to rust and gather dust in attics. But there was a barn in Connecticut where those artifacts weren’t neglected, but turned into museum pieces.
The Space Age Museum of the Kleeman family has a collection of at least 10,000 pieces with design inspired by space adventures — both real and fictional, custom-made and batch-produced.
This flying saucer was made in 1973 by a man from Arkansas who said he had a “vision instructing him to do so”.
This alien-shaped restaurant menu issued by COCO says “Take me to your leader”.
Kleenans also took several cross-country expeditions to find and photograph some of the few pieces of “roadside Americana” — space-themed signs, advertising displays, wall murals, playground climbers and other tourist attractions.
This cement mixer NASA capsule is located in Oklahoma.
A road sign “Alan B. Shepard Jr. Highway” saved from New Hampshire.
Kleenans’ obsession with retrofuturistic space relics began in 1984. John Kleenan’s three-year-old son Peter said that he wanted to have a “Star Wars spaceship” to fly in it. Peter hand-crafted that ship on his son’s fourth birthday using some plastic, an old office chair, a flashlight and a stove burner as a blaster sight.
It was a catalyst. Kleenans never lost the excitement over that hand-crafted ship. They collected space relics to tell the back-story of the Space Age — how ordinary Americans experienced magic of space exploration.
As the barn became crammed, Keenans decided to turn it into a museum.
A spaceship vehicle called “Earth to Mars Special”, built circa 1945.
“Skyfighter” rocket amusement ride from Atlantic Beach Park built in 1951.
Now grown-up Peter Kleenan runs the museum together with his parents. For him, it is not just the tribute to his childhood nostalgia. It is a constant reminder of the past that can keep the nations’ dream of future:
“One of the questions I ask myself is, ‘what would it take for us to have a more creative and adventurous optimism for the future, and get that pioneering spirit back in our culture?'”
Featured Image: Space Age Museum/Instagram