Hutchinson Gen. John Dailey, the director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, marveled at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center's displays and restoration work during a tour of the Hutchinson museum.
"The thing we most care about, if we have artifacts on loan, is if they are being properly cared for," Dailey said Wednesday, in his first visit to the Cosmosphere since taking over at the Smithsonian six years ago.
"The Cosmosphere has a worldwide reputation for being the restoration center for the world."
The Kansas Cosmosphere is one of 145 Smithsonian affiliates, with about 200 items on loan from the Air and Space Museum, said Jim Remar, the Cosmosphere's senior vice president.
But the exchange of artifacts goes both ways, said Air and Space Museum Assistant Director Donald Lopez, who joined Dailey on the behind-the-scenes tour.
"They are without a doubt the No. 1 affiliate," Lopez said of the Cosmosphere. "They not only take; they give."
Officials from both centers spent much of the day discussing mutual support and the continuation of restoration being performed by the Cosmosphere staff.
Earlier this year, the Cosmosphere restored the Gemini 12 capsule that carried Jim Lovell Jr. into space in November 1966. Now on display at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago as part of a long-term loan from the Smithsonian, it was the third capsule the Cosmosphere's restoration shop has restored.
The others were Gemini 6 and Gemini 10, which is on display at the Cosmosphere.
Dailey said the Air and Space Museum has about 100 pieces of various sizes in need of restoration, and that "we may see some trading back and forth" with the Kansas Cosmosphere.
Dailey also said the recent verdict in the case of former Cosmosphere director Max Ary, who was convicted of stealing artifacts from the space center, would not affect the relationship between the two facilities.
Ary, 56, was sentenced in May to three years in federal prison.