Sunday, June 21st, 2009 – Cape Canaveral, FL
John Hilliard met the Glennterns at 9 a.m. on Sunday June 21st for their tour of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. He gave some background on himself, explaining that he had worked on many of the missions and missiles fired from the Cape while employed with the Air Force, as well as giving some background on the Cape. The Cape had been used to fire missiles for NASA from the beginning of the Space program in the 1950s and encompasses 17,000 acres of land. He explained how much had changed since the beginning of the program, from the missiles themselves to how they were tested, observed, and fired.
The tour started with drive-bys of various launch pads, including two Delta II pads with missiles vehicles currently in place. Hilliard explained how the geometry of the vehicle with the nine solid boosters around the main liquid engine and the payload above worked. The tour then proceeded to the museum which housed layouts of all the missiles and some payloads, as well as a former bunker where launch control took place before technology was advanced enough to be a great distance away from the pads in launch complexes.
This bunker had pictures of the early missiles fired at the Cape and all the “Monkeynauts” that flew in capsules before man. The control room of the bunker had all the switches necessary to fire and track the missiles, and it held a large computer and program writer that is much larger than the technology we have today. Different types of missile and support structure mock-ups were stored outside this facility in the rocket garden. An impressive array of launch vehicles and military missile were standing at full scale.
The tour continued on to many other launch pads for various missile types including Titan, Juno, and Delta IV rockets. Along the road was the Mercury 7 time capsule which houses information about John Glenn’s famous flight and will be closed until 2464 so that the future will know where it all began.
The Academyites also had the opportunity to climb atop the Apollo blockhouse and view most of the Cape. The very large Launch pad 37 was observed, as well as a number of other launch pads, including the shuttle pad at Kennedy Space Center. The group then went to the Apollo I launch site, where three astronauts lost their lives due to a flash fire during a test. It was a very surreal place and had a certain aura about it.
After observing this area the tour turned to head back. Along the way the Atlas launch pads were seen including the pad where the recent launch of the LRO/LCROSS mission had occurred. The bus drove past a Delta IV launch pad which held the upcoming GOES probe, a weather satellite set to launch less than a week after the tour.
The tour then concluded at the facility’s Hangar R which contained more missile mock-ups. A Snark missile, Navaho missile, and Mercury and Apollo capsules were all displayed within the hangar. The tour was very informative and the group learned a lot about the variety of missiles and launch operations.