Touch the suit.

The Space Station Museum

Field review by the editors.

Novato, California

A once vacant storefront in a shopping plaza is now serving a higher purpose: "to increase the public's understanding that a strong global commitment toward future manned space expeditions is an important key to accelerating our civilizations development."

The Space Station is a small but intimate exhibit of artifacts and bric-a-brac from a half century of manned space flight. The items -- control panels, hatches, helmets, suits, etc. -- are part of a private collection accumulated from NASA and Russian space programs. After a couple of well received public exhibitions, a permanent museum with regular hours opened on Nov. 11, 2011.

The dedication and ribbon cutting a month earlier starred NASA shuttle astronauts Rick Searfoss, John Herrington, and Apollo 12's Dick Gordon Jr. The narrow store space was crowded with families and kids eager to touch space artifacts. That's right -- this is the first space museum we've visited that allows visitors to paw the fabric of astronaut suits, or probe the million-dollar innards of important space devices.

Up close and touching all the space suits.

This unique access to museum items is supposed to continue, though we completely understand if plexiglas shields start popping up once the irreplaceable relics start to wear out. There's also talk of eventually moving to a larger building in Novato, where more of the collection could be exhibited.

The Space Station Museum

Address:
464 Ignacio Blvd., Novato, CA
Directions:
Pacheco Plaza Shopping Center, US Hwy 101 exit for Ignacio Blvd., head west, in the shopping center on the right between Marin Coffee and Boca Pizza.
Hours:
F-Su 1-5 or by appt. (Call to verify)
Phone:
415-524-3940
Admission:
Free, donations accepted.
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