Space Murals Museum
New Mexico has a far reaching heritage with space, rocket pioneer Robert Goddard launched most of his rockets in Roswell, the first atomic bomb was detonated north of Alamogordo, Werner Von Braun, the former Nazi missile wunderkind was based out of White Sands Missile Range where he and his team developed much of the tech that would put us on the Moon. The Space Shuttle landed its third mission in White Sands, there is now a commercial space port in Las Cruces, and the search for extremely distant galaxies is based near Socorro at the Very Large Array radio telescope. Even the aliens wanted in on the action and crash landed their weather balloon/spaceship in Roswell in 1947.
So It makes good sense that, amidst all of this history, there would be a place to experience and understand what has gone on here, and there is... probably up the road a bit at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. But Space Murals Museum and Gift Shop is a different and arguably better way to experience our space history. Firstly, the name comes from a series of murals painted on the side of giant water tanks that commemorate American space travel. Paintings of astronauts lost in the pursuit of space, and tons of mission patches makes up the big water tower out back. There is a small mockup of the space shuttle and a fish pond that is in the shape of a shuttle.
Inside though is where it really gets good. Piles and piles of crazy astroiana, ranging from every mission patch, to postcards sent by random people to astronauts, to lego versions of satellites, to giant scale mockup of the International Space Station that is attached to the ceiling. There are commemorative beer mugs for the Apollo 11 launch, operators manuals for obscure rocket engines, bits and pieces of mission control, cast off parts of old space suits and spent astronaut food containers.
The gift shop is pretty great, most of the mission patches for sale, and loads of stickers and pins. We later found some of this stuff at other NASA locations but I felt better about buying from these guys than the lame concessionaires at Johnson and Kennedy space centers.
You drive right by this place between Las Cruces and Alamogordo and it is just on the other side of the mountain from the White Sands Missile Garden, so you really have no excuse not to stop and take this place in.