Earl Mullins likes to look up.
A self-professed product of the space age, he spent his youth staring at the sky.
He had a front row seat to the USA v. USSR space race, and with each aeronautical development, his fascination with outer space grew stronger.
Now he shares his passion with the world at his Space Museum in Bonne Terre, encouraging all who visit to shoot for the moon when it comes to their dreams.
The Space Museum, founded in 2006 and organized as a nonprofit in 2008, houses over $30 million of artifacts collected by Mullins himself and donated by NASA.
Crowd favorites include the space suit Gus Grissom used for training, a shuttle experience that simulates the noises and sensations of being 3½ miles away from a space shuttle launch, and control panels that were used to launch the Apollo spacecraft.
In addition to its exhibits, the Space Museum also offers educational outreach programs.
Mullins and his team open up the museum or hit the road to give students a show with his “rockets rule” program.
The presentation tells the story of rocket development and space flight, with a few demonstrations along the way.
“We set things on fire, make smoke and blow things up,” Mullins said. “Everybody seems to really love it. We are, of course, very dedicated to STEM, and that’s our driving force.”
The museum has been busy recently, expanding in 2019 to open the Gus Grissom Center, a new wing of the museum to hold even more artifacts. The museum also plans to develop a new program called “Show Me Space” in the fall, featuring an all-female panel of astronauts discussing their experience breaking into a male-dominated profession.
It’s this kind of drive and determination that fuels Mullins’ fire when it comes to space exploration and innovation.
And that, above all, is what he wants to share with the world.
“We’re a museum, and we’re about history and science, but we like to think of ourselves as being about something more,” he said. “We’re about taking those gifts that you’ve been given, dreaming big, overcoming obstacles and doing great things.”
Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students and free for children 5 and under.