Here is the sixth 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 pre-launch support for the Mercury program, including the first USA Orbital Launch of John Glenn from Launch Complexe 14 (LC 14).
Leaving LC 1 – 4 (see “Post WWII Launch Complexes”), our bus turned onto Central Control Road passing construction on Launch Complex 36 (LC36). In 2015 Blue Origin (Amazon money) leased LC36 where it planned to launch the “New Glenn” vehicle after 2020. I snapped the churned up sand and construction equipment, not interesting at all IMHO.
Click Any Image for a larger viewe
The “New Glenn” was named in homage to John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth in 1962. We turned right onto to ICBM Road, headed generally north, following a string of launch complexes along the Altantic shore toward Launch Complex 14 (LC14). A dissapointment was not stopping to walk the Mercury 7 Memorial at the corner of ICBM Road and LC14. Our bus stopped briefly enough for the following snap. It is a memorial because John Glenn, the surviving member of Mercury 7, passed away December 8, 2016 at the age of 95.
I will cover at length the Mercury-Atlas vehicle that powered John Glenn into orbit February 20, 1962. The tie-in between ICBM road and this series of launch complexes is the early space missions were on re-purposed Intercontinental Ballistic Missles (thus, ICBM). “Atlas” is the name of the ICBM used for Colonel Glenn’s 1962 flight. Click on the following image to find labled pushpins for the corner of Central Control and ICBM Roads (upper right), the road to LC14 and Mercury 7 Memorial.
You will also find a pushpin for the Skid Strip, bottom just to right of center. The earliest cruise missle tests (see “Cruise Missles” and “Post WWII Launch Complexes” ) included navigation to a landing on non-wheeled “skids.” The strip was maintained in support of the manned and later missions when cargo planes delivered the early space capsules, landing, not skidding hopefully, for transfer to a Pre-Launch facility, Hangar S.
Hangar S is seen below as we passed later in the tour. Built 1957 by the military the 61,300 square feet were acquired by NASA in 1959. The early space capsules were tested here in an vacume chamber to ensure the vehicle supported an breathable atmosphere for the occupants.
The first American space voyager was Ham, a chimpanzee. Ham lived in a residential area on the second floor of Hangar S. For a period of time the Mercury 7 shared the spartan second floor quarters. “The Right Stuff” (a 1984 film from a Tom Wolfe book) included scenes from this episode of the program.
In short order arrangements were made for more comfortable quarters, just off the ocean in Cocoa Beach. It was a new hotel given over entirely to the Mercury 7. Pam and I stayed there in 2018 while taking this tour, it is the La Quinta across from the International Palms. We recommend it a clean, comfortable, reasonably price and a great story to share afterwards. The Atlantic Ocean is a five minute walk.
I learned from the tour how the hotel was donated to the Mercury 7 by a private individual. They owned the hotel. Here is a very informative sign just off the La Quinta lobby with their names. Each first mission, as named by the astronaut, is listed.
Next post will feature images of LC14 from 2018.
Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words John Glenn, Launch Complex 14, Mercury-Atlas, Launch Complex 36. Plus a “google” on “Hangar S History” that found an excellent page hosted on the NASA site. Cover photo of Friendship 7 Launch my be found on Flickr in “NASA on the Commons” photostream.