Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Superintendent Eric Leonard displays a LEGO Sputnik model in front of an exhibit panel. 
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Superintendent Eric Leonard displays a LEGO Sputnik model in front of an exhibit panel. COURTESY OF NATIONALPARK SERVICE

It seems that things in the United States have reverted to something of a Cold War mentality – and perhaps fear – recently.

The continued boasts of nuclear missile launches and tests of atomic/hydrogen bombs by North Korea – and threats of massive destruction returned by our country – have me wondering where the closest fallout shelter is. (Thanks to geocaching, I do know where an old, dilapidated, private one is located in northeast Iowa, for whatever that’s worth – probably not much, to be honest… )

Are you curious as to the origins of the original Cold War?

A trip to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in October will share ideas with a new exhibit 60 years in the making. A press release from the site follows.

Cactus Flats, S.D. – “Beep. Beep. Beep.”

The signal from the Soviet satellite known as Sputnik terrified Americans in the fall of 1957 and changed the world. If the Russians could put a satellite into space, it stood to reason that they could launch a nuclear missile to the United States. The launch of the world’s first satellite on Oct. 4, 1957, jump started the space race and would lead directly to the beginning of the Air Force’s Minuteman missile program one year later.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, the park will mark the 60th anniversary of Sputnik’s launch into orbit with a series of events at the Visitor Center. Visitors of all ages can become Junior Missileers by making and launching paper rockets from 10 a.m. to noon.  

Through the generous support of Eastern National, the park will also offer a unique Build-A-Sputnik activity. Visitors will also be able to take home their own LEGO Sputnik model on a first-come, first-served basis, as the free kit is available in a limited quantity.

At 11:30 a.m., a special program, “Sputnik: The ‘Beep’ that changed the World,” will occur in the Visitor Center Theater. This program will explore the missile programs of both the USSR and US prior to the launch of Sputnik and how this one launch triggered both the Nuclear Arms and Space Races.

Twice during the day, a special two-part program – “Care and Feeding of Minuteman Missiles” – will begin at the Visitor Center Theater, at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. This program will also include the opportunity to join a past missile maintainer at the Delta-09 silo for questions and answers at 10:30 a.m. and again at 2:30 p.m. 

During the orbit anniversary of Sputnik, from Oct. 4 through Jan. 4, a special national park Passport stamp will also be available in the Visitor Center.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site's headquarters and visitor center is located off of exit 131, Interstate 90. The park consists of three sites along a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 90 in western South Dakota. Authorized by Congress in 1999, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site preserves components of the Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile system, interpreting the deterrent value of the land-based portion of America's nuclear defense during the Cold War era and commemorating the people and events associated with this recent period of American history.

The park is open daily 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. More information about the park can be found on the internet at www.nps.gov/mimi or by phone at 605-433-5552. Visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MinutemanMissileNHS and Twitter at https://twitter.com/mimi_ranger

This page gives updates on tours and directions to the sites,  www.nps.gov/mimi/planyourvisit/directions.htm.