Located in Ashland, Nebraska, the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum celebrates the accomplishments of the United States Air Force, preserving a collection of historic strategic aircraft, spacecraft, and nuclear missiles and offering educational programming related to aviation and engineering technologies. The history of Strategic Air Command operations in eastern Nebraska dates back to 1948, when Bellevue’s Offutt Air Force Base became the headquarters for the Department of Defense’s strategic nuclear strike forces and reconnaissance aircraft operations.
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In 1959, the base began a small museum collection containing a single preserved aircraft, achieving a vision outlined by General Curtis LeMay. The museum’s collections grew throughout the 1960s and 1970s, serving as a well-known public repository of technology used for peace preservation throughout the Cold War. In 1998, following a $33 million fundraising campaign, the museum moved to a new permanent facility in Ashland, offering greater public accessibility as a result of its central location between Lincoln and Omaha and greater indoor protection for aircraft and exhibits. The museum’s name was officially changed to the Strategic Air and Space Museum in 2001, and later in 2015, to the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum.
Permanent Exhibits and Collections
Today, the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum encompasses a 300,000-square-foot facility near Interstate 80 in Ashland, offering collections of aircraft, spacecraft, and nuclear missiles, along with historical exhibits on American conflicts and educational programming related to aviation and engineering technologies. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the museum is operated by private funding from corporate and individual donors. A large glass atrium built from 525 glass panels is located at the front of the building, housing a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird aircraft, and three nuclear missiles are displayed outside the building’s entrance. Other notable aircraft holdings include an Avro Vulcan B.Mk.II, one of only three of its kind on display anywhere in the United States, a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, the first of its kind used by the United States Air Force, one of only two McDonnell XF-85 Goblins ever produced, and one of four remaining Convair B-36J Peacemakers. Notable missile holdings include the Boeing AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile, the Douglas PGM-17 Thor, and the North American GAM-77 Hound Dog.
A number of permanent exhibits focus on historical and cultural aspects of Nebraska’s involvement in American conflicts of the 20th century, as well as topics related to aviation and robotics technologies and interstellar science. The work of Nebraska artist Matthew Placzek is showcased in Searching for Humanity: Veterans, Victims, and Survivors of World War II, which commemorates the state’s Holocaust victims through photos and personal testimony. The career of Ashland area astronaut Clayton Anderson is chronicled in The Heartland Astronaut, while the Doolittle’s Tokyo Raiders exhibit commemorates Lincoln native Richard Joyce, a participant in the 1942 strike in retaliation for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The Martin Bomber Plant exhibit commemorates the former Offutt Air Force Base bomber production plant. A Vietnam Memorial Wall honors the conflict’s fallen soldiers, while other exhibits honor the service of the 9th Air Force in World War II and the Seventh Air Force and United States Navy Task Force 77’s Linebacker II campaign in Vietnam. A variety of rotating exhibits are also exchanged with other national museums, such as the Black Holes: Space Warps and Time Twists exhibit, on display throughout 2017.
STEM-focused exhibits for young visitors are displayed at the Children’s Learning Center, which offers a safe space for families to explore scientific creativity and innovation. Exhibits include an Innovation Station, which encourages teamwork through creative play with foam blocks, a Dual Test Track, highlighting friction and weight distribution principles for aircraft operations, and an area of Make-It Tables. A Bernoulli Blower, Tennis Ball Launcher, and Twin Air Blaster are also featured, along with a free play area of KEVA Planks.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Docent-led museum tours are offered daily, including group tours for 20 or more participants at a reduced admission rate. Field trips for elementary and secondary school students are tailored to incorporate Nebraska curriculum elements and include use of the museum’s planetarium and flight simulators. A variety of educational programming is offered in conjunction with the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Office of STEM, including overnight opportunities, themed monthly homeschooler workshops, distance learning outreach programs, and an annual Science Fair. Birthday party packages are also available for rental, structured around aviation and technology themes. Annual public special events include a Spring Fling celebration and Easter egg hunt, a Family Fun Carnival, a Leprechaun Chase 10K St. Patrick’s Day Run, an Indoor Air Show, and a Veteran’s Day celebration.
28210 W Park Hwy, Ashland, NE 68003, Phone: 402-944-3100