Blast from the Past: Coney Island celebrates 60th anniversary of Astroland Park with new historical exhibition

Astroland Rocket celebrates 60th anniversary
Coney Island’s Astroland Rocket is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the now-defunct Astroland Park with a free historical exhibition.
Wikimedia Commons/David Shankbone

Coney Island’s notorious space themed Astroland Park is celebrating its 60 anniversary with a new historic exhibit installed in front of the iconic Astroland Moon Rocket. The exhibit is free and open to the public from this Saturday, July 31 through October 30.

According to the Coney Island History Project, the attraction made its debut in 1962, in the midst of the space race, as Russians and Americans battled it out to get to the surface of the moon first. The rocket, at the time dubbed the Star Flyer, was a space travel simulator, showing three-minute films of space travel while the rocket rattled and clanked as though it was actually entering orbit.

denos wonder wheel near astroland rocket in coney island
The iconic Astroland rocket serves as a historical centerpiece to the iconic Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park in Coney Island. File photo by Jim McDonnell

Throughout the years, the rocket has been shuttled to various temporary homes on and around Coney Island.

It was retired in the 1970s and moved to the roof of Gregory and Paul’s Restaurant on the Coney Island Boardwalk, where it served as a fun advertisement for the park. Then, in 2008, Astroland closed and Carol and Jerry Albert, owners of the park, donated the rocket to the city, who had promised to make the vintage vehicle a centerpoint of Coney’s revitalized entertainment district. 

In 2014, after years of neglect and damage on Staten Island, the Astroland Moon Rocket it founds its new home next at Deno’s Wonder Wheel park, beside the landmarked Wonder Wheel, thanks to the help of the History Project, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and the Albert family. 

astroland rocket
The Astroland Rocket made its long-awaited return to Coney Island in 2013, where it remains as a historical artifact of long-lost amusement parks. File photo courtesy of Charles Denson

The appreciation for the adored Astroland continued as Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project created a film in 2015 titled The Rocket Has Landed. The film tells the story of Coney’s love for intergalactic space travel.

“Outer space simulators have played a prominent role in Coney’s amusement history,” Denson said. “It began when Thompson and Dundy brought ‘A Trip to the Moon’ to Steeplechase Park in 1902 and culminated in 1962, with Astroland’s Moon Rocket.”

According to the history project, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, and the exhibit, are open daily from 12 p.m. until 10 p. m. on weekdays and until 11:30 p.m. on Fridays-Sundays through Labor Day, weather permitting. In September and October, Deno’s will be open weekends and school holidays.