Point your eyes to the sky at these out-of-this-world space attractions in Oklahoma.
Continue reading below
With top tier space museums and planetariums and a rich history with space exploration, Oklahoma has a collection of celestial sites you’ll have to see to believe. Watch the universe unfold at a state-of-the-art planetarium in Tulsa, see the space suit worn by Weatherford astronaut Thomas Stafford on his Apollo 10 mission, and learn about the solar system from astronomy experts in Oklahoma City.
For aerospace enthusiasts, the Tulsa Air & Space Museum is a must see. Browse over 100 years of Tulsa's rich aerospace history including locally-built planes, get hands-on experience at interactive exhibits and enjoy a show at the state-of-the-art planetarium. The James E. Bertelsmeyer Planetarium fully immerses audiences with stunning high-definition visuals in its 50-foot dome. Check the schedule before you go, as showtimes and topics vary. There are daily screenings of full-dome videos, half-dome movies and live star tours. In a split second, you'll move from a serene Oklahoma sunset to constellations and planets visible in the local night skies, as well as galaxies near and far.
Learn about Weatherford local Thomas P. Stafford at the Stafford Air & Space Museum. During his teen years, Stafford played football for Weatherford High School. After graduating, he was accepted to the United States Naval Academy. After receiving his commission in the US Air Force, Stafford spent time as a flight instructor before he was selected as an astronaut by NASA. Throughout his illustrious career, Stafford served on four space flights: Gemini VI, Gemini IX, Apollo 10 and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Mission.
At the Stafford Air & Space Museum, visitors can spot one of the few actual Titan II rocket launch vehicles on display. Other displays acquired from the Smithsonian include a Gemini flight suit, space food, survival items flown to the moon on Apollo 11 and the authentic flight pressure suit General Stafford wore on Apollo 10, which was the first flight of the lunar module to the moon. The museum has a genuine swatch and piece of the propeller of the original Wright Flyer taken to the moon by Neil Armstrong.
No two shows are alike at the Kirkpatrick Planetarium within Science Museum Oklahoma. This unique attraction, which is included with the general museum admission, features astronomy experts taking guests on a cosmic exploration through the universe. Settle in for a journey through the galaxy as you learn about the secret lives of stars and get a close-up view of some of the most amazing sites in the universe.
Another must-see within the museum is the Oklahoma Space & Aviation Hall of Fame. This recently renovated exhibit hall spotlights all of the amazing accomplishments of Oklahoma's aviators and astronauts. With rotating artifacts and interactive panels, you can see items including a replica of the pressurized flying helmet that was designed, made and tested by Oklahoman Wiley Post.
Celebrate the magic of the Mother Road at Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on 66. This small shop located in a former 1950s PEMCO gas station has a larger-than-life mascot right outside complete with cowboy hat, astronaut helmet and a rocket ship. Folks have been flocking to Buck Atom, the 21-foot-tall space cowboy created by owner Mary Beth Babcock, for fun photo ops and unique merchandise highlighting Tulsa and Route 66.
The Winganon Space Capsule in northeast Oklahoma may trick unknowing visitors into thinking it is a relic from NASA. While it is complete with shiny aluminum paint, rocket thrusters and even a NASA logo, this roadside oddity is actually a mixer from a cement truck. Over 60 years ago, a cement mixer on its way to build the Oologah Lake bridge had an accident and tipped over. By the time a tow truck arrived to remove the vehicle, all the cement inside the mixer had hardened and was too heavy to remove. The crew decided to tow the cab away and come back for the detached mixer later, which never happened. Since the incident, the mixer was painted numerous times until it was adorned as a “space capsule” in 2011.
Visit the site where a 1,000-foot-diameter meteor crashed into the area that is now Ames, Oklahoma, at the Ames Astrobleme Museum. The event, which occurred about 450 million years ago, left a crater that is several miles across. Although the crater has subsequently been buried by sediment, the town has a nice walk-through museum where visitors can interpret the cataclysmic event through videos, computer animations, graphs and charts.
Oklahoma has a rich aviation history, and many famous Oklahomans have made big contributions to space exploration. Discover eight astronauts with ties to the Sooner State, learn about their missions and find out where you can spot exhibits and displays highlighting their accomplishments.
Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr. was born in 1927 in Shawnee. His missions included Mercury-Atlas 9 and Gemini 5. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum in 1963.
Owen Kay Garriott was born in 1930 in Enid. His missions included Skylab-3 and STS-9/Spacelab-1. Fun fact: Owen Garriott and his wife Helen provided the initial funding for Leonardo’s Children’s Museum & Adventure Quest in his hometown of Enid. Guests can spot a few of his photos up in the museum. In addition, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum in 1980.
Thomas Patten Stafford was born in 1930 in Weatherford. His missions included Gemini 6, Gemini 9, Apollo 10 and Apollo-Soyuz. Head to the Stafford Air & Space Museum to learn all about this local hero. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum in 1973.
William Reid Pogue was born in 1930 in Okemah. His mission included Skylab 4. Visit the Tulsa Air & Space Museum to see a space flown flight suit and other must-see objects from his time in space.
Fred Wallace Haise Jr. was born in 1933 in Mississippi but served in the Oklahoma Air National Guard after attending the University of Oklahoma. His mission included Apollo 13.
Stuart Allen Roosa was born in 1933 in California, but raised in Claremore. His mission included Apollo 14. Visit the Claremore Museum of History to see some of the artifacts he took with him on his historic mission to the moon.
Shannon Matilda Wells Lucid was born in China, but she was raised in Bethany and later attended the University of Oklahoma. She was one of the first female American astronauts. Her missions included STS-51G, STS-34, STS-43, STS-58, STS-76 and Mir.
John Bennett Herrington was born in 1958 in Wetumka. He was the first American Indian (Chickasaw) to go into space. His mission included STS-113. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum in 2019.
Although not an astronaut, Donna Lee Shirley is a notable Oklahoman for her time spent as the manager of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA. Born in Pauls Valley in 1941, Shirley was raised in Wynnewood and later graduated from the University of Oklahoma. During her time at NASA, Shirley managed the program that landed the very first rover, called Sojourner, on Mars in 1997.