Cape Canaveral, Florida

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay

If you like dead straight, flat, and level, you'll love Florida. No extra charge for the humidity.

The Cape was Cape Canaveral for many years, was renamed Cape Kennedy after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, then renamed Cape Canaveral again in 1973. The renaming had never been popular in Florida since the name Canaveral had been in use for 400 years.

The Space Center is still named after John F. Kennedy, fittingly, since Kennedy pushed for the Apollo Program. A day here is not cheap but is money far better spent than at many of Florida's other attractions.

Below: full-scale mockups of the Space Shuttle and its external boosters and fuel tanks.

Above: Shuttle space suit Below: cargo bay and instrument cradle.
  Below: shuttle cargo storage area.

Visitor Center

Left: overview of the visitor center.
The main visitor center
Left and below: memorials to astronauts lost on American and Russian missions.
Not as old, but every bit as historic as Plymouth Rock or Independence Hall, and every bit as capable of creating goose bumps, especially if you watched it happen. Left and below: a Saturn I.
Foreground: Gemini-Titan. At left behind it is a Mercury Atlas. At right behind it is a Mercury-Redstone. The white stubby missile is a Thor and the rightmost is a Jupiter C, the rocket that launched the first American satellite, Explorer I, in 1958.
Left to right: Mercury Redstone, used for the two suborbital Mercury flights in 1961. It was not powerful enough to put the capsule into orbit. In the middle is the Jupiter C, with a Thor to the right and the Saturn I in the distance.

Thor was an Air Force intermediate range missile. It never launched a manned spacecraft but became a workhorse for launching unmanned satellites.

Left: Jupiter C, Thor, Atlas Agena (unmanned), Gemini Titan.
Left: Mercury Redstone: Atlas Agena, Thor, Jupiter C, Gemini Titan.
Left: Mercury Atlas (foreground) and Mercury Redstone.

For the four orbital Mercury missions, the more powerful, but also more dangerous, liquid fueled Atlas was used.

By 2007 standards, this early hardware is primitive beyond description. Only fanatical attention to detail kept those early missions from failure.

Left: Atlas Agena (left) and Gemini Titan (right).

The Agena was specifically designed as a second stage to mount on the Atlas.

Left and below: Astronaut Al Worden from Apollo 15 describes his experiences to visitors.

Space Station Facility

Above: distant views of the Vehicle Assembly Building

Below: this complex of buildings houses workshops where components of the Space Station and Shuttle missions are fabricated.

Left and below: walking through the Space Station mockup.
Above: models of the projected Space Station when completed.

Left:In zero gravity, down is whatever you choose it to be, so astronaut sleeping bags attach to the wall. No, these are not down sleeping bags.

Since I'm notorious for sticking my feet out for temperature regulation, I asked about the bags getting too hot. They have temperature controls.

Has anybody ever, you know, in space? There have been missions where husbands and wives flew together, but nobody in any space program is talking.

Showering creates the challenge of keeping globules of water from getting all over the station. A tight fitting door and a vacuum system solve that problem.
Going to the toilet, now that's a challenge. The system is a lot simpler than that faced by the hapless Heywood Floyd in 2001: A Space Odyssey. A vacuum system for the wastes and hold-downs for the astronaut solve the problems.
Left: model of the Space Station core with two Soyuz modules docking.
Left and below: laboratory modules for the Space Shuttle. Leonardo is a joint U.S.-Italian project. Named for da Vinci, not the ninja turtle.

Vehicle Assembly Building

The Vehicle Assembly Building is the tallest one-story building in the world. It is a near cube about 520 feet on a side, covers eight acres, and encloses almost 130 million cubic feet of space, making it the world's third largest building by volume. Each of the stars on the American flag is 6 feet, the blue field is the size of a basketball court, and the stripes are as wide as a standard road lane.
Left: one of the crawlers used for transporting spacecraft.
Left: closer view of a crawler. Capable of carrying a Space Shuttle or a Saturn V. Weight: six million pounds. Top speed: two miles per hour. Fuel economy, 150 gallons per mile. Each track tread weighs nearly a ton. The crawler is 131 feet wide and 114 feet long, and was once the largest tracked vehicle in the world. A huge German coal mining machine is now larger.
Left and below: crawler tracks

To The Pads

Tour buses go out to an overlook on the coast.
The closest approach to a launch pad is actually on the road to the coast.
Left and below: the beach at the Cape.
Below: looking across a lagoon to the launch pads. Apart from the occasional bright lights and loud noises, the limited access to this area makes a quite nice wildlife refuge. Bald eagles nest near the pads.


Left and below: distant views of the pads from the beach. The water tower disgorges its contents in a few seconds during launch to keep the exhaust from eroding the concrete on the launch pad too severely.

Saturn V/apollo Center

The Saturn V/apollo Center houses the original equipment used in the control of Apollo 8, the first mission to circumnavigate the Moon.

In many ways Apollo 8 was the most dramatic Apollo mission. Because planning was going so smoothly, it was leapfrogged ahead of a less ambitious earth orbital mission, so before anyone quite knew what was going on, people were headed for the Moon. And then there was that dramatic reading on Christmas Eve, live from the Moon.

Not only is the original equipment here, many of the chairs are draped with the clothing worn by the controllers.

During the launch simulation, consoles activate and light up as they did during the original launch.

During the launch, the building vibrates and lights up the way it did during the actual launch.




Saturn V and Apollo Display

Business end of a Saturn V.

Why are there still Saturn V's around?

Well, remember "Why don't we take all that money we're spending on going to the Moon, and spend it on problems here on Earth?"

Well, we did. Apollo 18, 19 and 20 were cancelled, leaving three Saturn V's unused. A couple of others were reconstructed from flight-ready spare parts.

Apollo 20 was cancelled on January 4, 1970, only 168 days after the first manned lunar landing. Apollo 18 and 19 were cancelled on September 2, 1970. We should fly the flag at half-staff on those days out of shame.

What we got for spending the "all that money on problems here on Earth" is left as an exercise for the reader.

In case you can't tell, this makes me angry. The attack on the Apollo Program in the name of "needs here on earth" is unquestionably the most shameful, anti-intellectual act ever committed by "enlightened" people.

Despite the claims of the conspiracy theory crowd, we could build a Saturn V today. Not only are the original plans still extant in microfilm, but we have the actual parts.

On the other hand, we won't built the next moon rockets like this because this technology is 40 years old.

Upper end of the third stage.
Lunar lander from one of the cancelled missions. Due to shuffling and reassignment of mission numbers, the exact mission is hard to specify. This mission was originally to have been Apollo 15, except one of the later mission plans was used for the actual Apollo 15.
Apollo capsule with escape tower.
Command and Service modules. The missing cone on the Command Module covered the descent parachutes.
Apollo space suit.
Views of Command and Service modules.
This was the Command Module from the Apollo/Soyuz mission in 1975.
Crew seats in the command module.
Lunar rover.
Second stage rocket motors and the upper end of the first stage.

Astronaut Hall of Fame

Even in the tiny community of people who have gone into space, some stand out.
This was Sigma 7, Wally Schirra's Mercury capsule. This was the third orbital Mercury flight, making six orbits in October, 1962.


The ablative heat shield.
Control console used in the Gemini 4 mission, June, 1965.
Left and below: Apollo 14 Command Module.

Command modules aren't exactly rare artifacts. 36 were built, many used only in testing. Two were never completed, five were scrapped, one was disassembled during the Apollo I investigation, Apollo I itself is in storage, the fate of two is unknown (probably scrapped), and the remainder are on display in various places.

Left and below: closeups of the interior and door.
Wheel from a Lunar Rover
Statue of Alan Shepard, first American in space.

Below: Typical Florida summer evening.

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Created 22 June 2007, Last Update 03 June 2020