A Lunar Lander trainer from the Apollo 13 mission is an extraordinary piece of space history on display at an unsuspecting place, a rest stop in Westonia, Mississippi. Granted, this is not an ordinary rest area, but rather a large Mississippi and Hancock County Welcome Center. Located at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Highway 607 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, this Welcome Center includes a 7,000 square foot facility and is situated on 60 acres of land that includes picnic facilities.
During the 1960, this Lunar Lander vehicle was used as a trainer by the Apollo astronauts for their moon missions. Once their lunar activities were complete, the Lunar Lander Vehicle (LLV) would launch from the landing site to re-dock with the command module as it orbited around the moon. Mississippi has close ties to NASA as a nearby test facility worked on the rocket engines used for many of the moon missions.
I had been road tripping around the South when I happened upon the Westonia Lunar Lander exhibit. It was a lovely day and surprisingly a scenic rest stop, so with my camera in tow I strolled the grounds. As I was walking around I came across a scraggly old-man trying to get my attention. At first I tried to ignore him, wondering what he wanted with me, but then it became apparent he worked at the facility. For some reason I am a naturally suspicious person, always assuming when someone is trying to get my attention that they want something. In the South however, people are just genuinely friendly. This older gentlemen saw my camera and simply thought he would point out something I might want to photograph. When I turned the bend and saw what he was talking about, I was so grateful for his direction and almost felt ashamed for being so suspicious.
I don’t know how I missed seeing it on my own, as the large Lunar Lander is mounted on a set of stilts and is quite an attraction for a rest area. As I walked back toward my vehicle I saw the southern gentleman once again and thanked him for directing me.
If you’ve ever stopped by the Westonia, Mississippi Welcome Center, please leave a comment below and share your experience.