Here is the fifth in a series of photographs centered on the early history of space flight on Cape Canaveral mostly taken during a tour organized by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. “Google” the foundation for details of future tours. Here we explore the sites of the first launches on the Cape, Launch Complexes 1, 2, 3, 4. (LC 1 – 4).
From Vengeance To Space
Our bus proceeded east on Lighthouse Road past Launch Complexes 21 and 22 (see “Cruise Missiles”), in less than half a mile we were within the first sites of the United States Space age, sites with the lowest numbers, LC 1 – 4.
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If, instead of distance, the bus traveled back in time 68 years to July, 1950 we would be witness to the first United States space launch of the two-stage “Bumper 8”, a former “V2” missile topped by a WAC Corporal that reached 248 miles above the earth, about where the International Space Station circles now.
Almost certainly, the man who designed and directed the production of the Nazi V2, Werner vonBraun, was perched on the lighthouse a half-mile distant.
The Nazi “vengeance weapon 2”, the V2, a device so horrifying British authorities claimed the first V2 attacks to be “gas explosions” rather than admit a Nazi weapon descended without warning. Beginning September, 1944, over 3,000 V2’s landed on London, Antwerp and Liège resulting in an estimated 9,000 deaths, mostly civilians. 12,000 forced labor and concentration camp slaves died in the construction of the production facilities captured by the Soviet Union during the collapse of the Nazis. These victims, arms linked, will form a circle 15.9 miles in circumference around the Bumper 2 launch.
von Braun and key V2 personnel surrendered to the Americans and, along with enough parts to construct 80 V2s, were taken to the United States. His direction of US missile development lead eventually to the enormous Saturn rocket that lifted three men to the moon, so good came from our bet on vonBraun and the V2.
In January, 2018, firmly in the present, our bus approached these now “deactivated” sites driving down Lighthouse Road. Confined to the bus, I used my Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens to capture these scenes.
I can almost see someone behind the glass, enjoying a blast of air-conditioned air, dry and cool.
Litter on and around Launch Complex 4
From 1950 into the 1960’s LC 1-4 saw launches of cruise missiles, some of which were able to maneuver and land on the “skid strip” you can pick out on the “21,000 V2 Victims” image, above. A positive discovery from my research on wikipedia the weapon systems tested here were not fired in anger. Continued development in other places lead to production of generations of cruise missiles launched by Presidents Clinton and Bush against Afghanistan, Iraq and (??) other targets. What victim ghosts, arms linked in ever growing circles, are lurking in our future?
A building on LC 4 has the designation “Aerostat”, one of the last projects supported. I saw an aerostat in action in the early 2000’s over Fort Huachuca, Arizona near the border with Mexico. An aerostat is a flying craft that does not rely on moving air to achieve lift, balloons for example.
The Goodyear blimp is a memory from my childhood on Long Island, the Fort Huachuca aerostat was a smaller version, outfitted with advanced technology for monitoring the surrounding environment. “Google” aerostat mexican border to learn more about the current deployment.
With the development of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) the facilities of LC 1 – 4 became obsolete. ICBMs are a theme of the next installment of this series.
Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words V-2, Launch Complex 1, Launch Complex 2, Launch Complex 3, Launch Complex 4. The Bumper 8 launch photograph caption includes a source citation.