• Dale Capps, Mike Baker, and Don Aich guide the Liberty Bell 7 as Clint Pierce uses a crane to remove it from a trailer to be taken inside SpaceWorks on Tuesday morning, March 22, 2016, after it was transported from the Cosmosphere. The Liberty Bell 7 will be going on a three-year loan to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

  • Clint Pierce, with Belger Cartage Service, uses a crane to lift the Liberty Bell 7 onto a trailer to be transported from the Cosmosphere to SpaceWorks on Tuesday morning, March 22, 2016. The Liberty Bell 7 will leave from SpaceWorks next week to go on a three-year loan to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

  • The Liberty Bell 7 is transported from the Cosmosphere to SpaceWorks on Tuesday morning, March 22, 2016. The Liberty Bell 7 will leave from SpaceWorks next week to go on a three-year loan to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

  • Left: A card is filled with signatures from people wishing the Liberty Bell 7 well wishes on its travels to Indiana.

  • Above: SpaceWorks Restoration Manager Dale Capps, left, and Clint Pierce (on crane) and Mike Baker, both with Belger Cartage Service, prepare to lift the Liberty Bell 7 from the trailer after it was transported from the Cosmosphere to SpaceWorks on Tuesday.

    Top: The Liberty Bell 7 waits to be loaded. It will be going on a three-year loan to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

  • The Liberty Bell 7 is placed on a trailer to be transported from the Cosmosphere to SpaceWorks on Tuesday morning, March 22, 2016. The Liberty Bell 7 will leave from SpaceWorks next week to go on a three-year loan to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

  • Don Aich, Mike Baker, and Dwayne Gobin help maneuver the Liberty Bell 7 out of the Cosmosphere before being transported to SpaceWorks on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. The Liberty Bell 7 will leave from SpaceWorks next week to go on a three-year loan to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

  • Employees of SpaceWorks and Belger Cartage Service work to place the Liberty Bell 7 on a trailer to be taken from the Cosmosphere to SpaceWorks on Tuesday morning, March 22, 2016. The Liberty Bell 7 will leave from SpaceWorks next week to go on a three-year loan to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

  • The Liberty Bell 7 is visible inside SpaceWorks after being transported from the Cosmosphere on Tuesday morning, March 22, 2016. The Liberty Bell 7 will be going on a three-year loan to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

  • The Liberty Bell 7 is placed on a trailer to be transported from the Cosmosphere to SpaceWorks on Tuesday morning, March 22, 2016. The Liberty Bell 7 will leave from SpaceWorks next week to go on a three-year loan to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

  • SpaceWorks Technician Don Aich (left) and SpaceWorks Restoration Manager Dale Capps keep watch as a crane lifts the display case off the Liberty Bell 7 before it is placed inside SpaceWorks on Tuesday morning, March 22, 2016, after being transported there from the Cosmosphere. The Liberty Bell 7 will be going on a three-year loan to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

  • An interior view of the Liberty Bell 7 after the display case was removed Tuesday morning, March 22, 2016.

Photos: Liberty Bell 7 moves from Hutchinson to Indianapolis for 3 years, taking it to largest kids' museum

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Liberty Bell 7 lifted off Tuesday from the Cosmosphere and will touch down in Indianapolis.

For the next three years, the Mercury space capsule that was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean on July 20, 1999, and is the property of the Cosmosphere will be on loan to the largest children's museum in the world, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

Former NASA astronaut David Wolf, born and reared in Indiana, has the title of "Extraordinary Scientist-in-Residence" at the Children's Museum. He played a role in the design of the new "Beyond Spaceship Earth" gallery that will open June 25 at the Children's Museum. "We have a big gala planned," said Children's Museum's public relations manager Leslie Olsen, for the opening weekend.

"They have developed an exhibit that it will be the centerpiece of, and so three years is what they needed it for," said Cosmosphere CEO Richard Hollowell. The Cosmosphere expects to receive "probably in excess of $500,000" for loaning Liberty Bell 7, Hollowell said.

The spacecraft is slated to come back to Hutchinson in March 2019. In the meantime, a replica of Liberty Bell 7 is on display at the Cosmosphere.

"Obviously, we hate to see it leave Hutchinson," Hollowell said. There was a little discussion by the board about the length of time it would be on loan, he said, and the board concurred it was good for the Cosmosphere and provided an opportunity for many people to see the historic spacecraft, he said.

The Children's Museum is in the top 20 of the most-visited museums in North America. It attracts 1.2 million visitors annually, compared to the slightly more than 100,000 annual visitors at the Cosmosphere.

Liberty Bell 7, the Mercury program's second-manned spacecraft and carrying astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom, was launched July 21, 1961. Grissom was plucked up after splashdown, but the capsule sank. A Cosmosphere-led expedition brought the capsule up from the sea in 1999. The Cosmosphere's SpaceWorks program restored the capsule before Liberty Bell 7 went on a six-year nationwide tour that began in 2000. The capsule returned home to Hutchinson in 2006. In 2014, it was loaned for an exhibit in Bonn, Germany, returning here in early 2015.

On Tuesday morning, a crane from Wichita-based Belger Cartage Service Inc. lifted the acrylic glass case containing the capsule and put the approximately 3,500-pound load on an open flatbed for the trip from the museum at 1100 N. Plum to SpaceWorks, 103 N. Whiteside, about 2.3 miles apart.

"I've handled this thing before," said Belger's Mike Baker, who recalled he "dropped it in the basement" in the Cosmosphere years ago.

Many people didn't notice the special cargo on the flatbed trailer, according to Don Aich, with the Cosmosphere.

"You could tell the ones that saw it," Aich said. "We got some double-takes."

The top and sides of the exhibit's case will remain in Hutchinson. The spacecraft on its existing base will be loaded into a big truck Monday for the 700-mile-plus journey to Indianapolis. The truck itself will serve as a climate-controlled crate for the spacecraft, according to SpaceWorks manager Dale Capps.

A couple of Cosmosphere employees will be in Indianapolis to oversee the transfer of the Liberty Bell 7.