Having A “Blast” South of Tucson!

Next time you’re near Tucson, take a little detour and drive south of the city 30 miles to 1580 Duval Mine Road. What will you find? A shopping center? Gift shop? Gas station? No, just a little known jewel: the Site 571-7 Titan II ICBM missile museum. And guess what, this wasn’t even my idea, but was on the urging of our close friend Kathy, one of Louise’s close friends from her teaching days!

Regardless of your interest-whether you are a computer techie, mechanical engineer, far left or right wing politico, or historian. . .it doesn’t matter, this is a must visit as it has something for everyone. Why? because it represents U.S. history, and is truly a One-Of-A-Kind museum.

In a nutshell, for $9.50 and an hour of your time, you will enter the bowels of Site 571-7, the only viewable Titan II ICBM site leftover from the Cold War. According to the museum’s web site, there were 54 Titan II sites that were operational from 1963 to 1987. This museum still has the actual TII missile in the silo. According to our tour guide, the 700 (?) ton blast doors are permanently engineered to remain in the half open position, so that Russian surveillance satellites will always be able to verify it as unusable and will not count it toward strategic missile thresholds. Is this true? Heck, I don’t know, but it sure seems believable and sounds like something out of a James Bond movie.

I won’t go into detail about the tour, but you’ll descend 35 feet into the main launch control room and see all of the computers, nuclear launch keys and security back up plans. You will either observe or actually be part of an actual missile launch exercise…yep…they go through the actual launch checklist. The launch sequence lights all work, and you will actually be able to “turn the launch key”. The site has 3 target options, and this one is “aimed” at Target 2.


You will then proceed through a long underground causeway that leads to the actual missile, which you will see through windows (below ground) and from the outside looking down. Obviously there’s no active warhead in it.


Some highlights:

-The underground complexes seem to be suspended in space as they are all on giant springs to withstand a nuclear attack.

-The 330,000 lb., 100’ missile launches in 59 seconds and travels 30 minutes over 6,300 miles.

-The Titan II was also the missile used for the Gemini series of space launches leading up to the Apollo moon flights in the mid ‘60s.

-For a real treat, with 30 days advance notice, you can reserve the crew bunk quarters and have a very romantic evening!


Summary: This quick-look at US history will probably evoke several different emotions depending on your background and outlook. We were utterly amazed at the 1960 era” tip of the spear” use of technology. In addition, the responsibility that the 2 officer and 2 enlisted launch crew teams possessed, (to unleash so much potential devastation) was a little unnerving. For Louise and I, it was an extremely sobering and humbling experience-even to the point of leading us into various periods of reflection and contemplation. However, it was WELL worth the trip and perhaps we’ll even sleep in the crew quarters sometime! Cheers, Smitty

Jeff leaving the museum


Below is a link to the museum site and a video link of the tour and launch sequence.




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One Response to Having A “Blast” South of Tucson!

  1. Smitty says:

    Thanks for your comment S. We like our new nick name, JeLo!