Apollo 1 Anniversary

Memories from the catastrophe on Launch Complex 34

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Here is the eighth, and last, 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 remember the loss of the Apollo 1 astronauts on Launch Complex 34 (LC-34).

Test Mice

In “Launch Complex 14 Today” we visited the place where John Glenn launched into the first American orbital mission. In ” John Glenn: A Memoir,” Glenn writes: Friendship 7 crossed the African coast twelve minutes after liftoff, a fast transatlantic transatlantic flight. I reached for the equipment pouch fixed just under the hatch. It used a new invention, a system of nylon hooks and loops called Velcro. I opened the pouch and a toy mouse floated into my vision. It was gray felt, with pink ears and a long tail that was tied to keep it from floating out of reach. I laughed; the mouse was Al’s joke, a reference to one of comedian Bill Dana’s characters, who always felt sorry for the experimental mice that had gone into space in rocket nose cones. In the early days, especially, the astronauts talked of this feeling among themselves, of being test subjects in a can and, by extension, like mice, expendable.

A monumental relief on the facade of Kennedy Space Center “Heroes and Legends” is from an iconic Project Mercury 7 photograph. Glenn is third from left, front row.

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Mural on the outside wall of the “Heroes and Legends” immersive experience, Kennedy Space Center near the Rocket Garden.

Gus Grissom, center top in the relief, was the veteran astronaut on the Apollo 1 crew, with Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee. White was the first American to walk in space during Program Gemini . Chaffee entered the space program with Program Apollo. These are images from the “Heroes and Legends” memorial to Apollo 1: the mission patch created by the crew, the three on-site in front of the launch pad. The patch is reproduced on the space capsule.

For this and the other slide shows, click on image for a larger view, use navigation arrows. Click elsewhere on larger view to exit.

Gus Grissom, who almost drown when his Liberty Bell 7 capsule hatch opened prematurely after an Atlantic Ocean splashdown, was a vocal critic of the problem plagued Apollo 1 capsule. The crew sent the following photograph to the project manager, Joseph Shea, with the message, “It isn’t that we don’t trust you, Joe, but this time we’ve decided to go over your head.” On issue was the quantity of flammables in the capsule. The use of velcro fasteners increased since the Glenn’s first orbital flight. There was 34 square feet of velcro throughout the capsule, almost like a carpet. Shea ordered it removed August 1966 and sometime before January 26 it was reinstalled. There were other flammable materials as well and a pressurized 100% oxygen. atmosphere.

The following photograph is low resolution, clicking on it will not yield a larger image.

The Apollo 1 crew expressed their concerns about the capsule in this parody of their crew portrait sent to ASPO manager Joseph Shea on August 19, 1966. From left to right: Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee. April 1, 1966. NASA photograph

On January 27, 1967 the crew was suited up, in the capsule, for a “plugs out” test on Launch Complex 34.

A spark started the fire, it quickly spread and the inward opening hatch cover could not be opened under cabin pressure. It took five minutes to open the hatch, Grissom, White and Chaffee were lost: asphyxiated and burned.

My photographs are from the “Heroes and Legends” exhibits of Apollo 1 and later missions. Above, next to the burned capsule hatch is the seared capsule mission patch. Below, a moving display is the personal effects of the lost astronauts.

Launch Complex 34 Today

By chance our Lighthouse tour was January 27th, the 51st anniversary of the loss of Grissom, White and Chaffee. As we approached the complex parked buses and a gathering of people came into view. All that is left is the massive poured concrete base of the launch tower, topped with rusting pipes.

LC-34, site of the Apollo 1 disaster

The following two images are taken from the above photograph. On the left is the LC-34 information kiosk. The other is people gathered around a display of photographs and a person walking toward our approaching bus.

This turned out to be Dr. Sonny Witt, Director of Operations for the 45th Mission Support Group , Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Dr Witt came onto our bus and explained it was not possible to visit LC-34 today, with no further details, then went on to provide interesting background to Cape Canaveral Lighthouse. We were so lucky, instead of experiencing the abandoned structures, we had the attention of an expert who had published books on the subject.

Here is a UTube video featuring Dr. Witt on a tour of the lighthouse.

Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words Apollo 1. Memoir excerpt is from “John Glenn: A Memoir”, (pp. 341, 343). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Click for the first post of this series, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.”

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Launch Complex 14 Today

Look Around Launch Complex 14

Here is the seventh 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 drive into Launch Complex 14 (LC-14) and look around.

Overview

In “Mercury 7 Pre-Launch Facilities” we learned how the present and past merge a few miles to the south at LC-36 where construction for launching a “New Glenn” rocket is underway by Blue Origin, an American privately funded aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company.

After viewing the Mercury 7 memorial, we approach the decommissioned blockhouse of LC-14.

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Under the “Welcome to Complex 14” sign, looking close, are freshly painted parking spaces for John Glenn, Jr. Lt Col; M. Scott Carpenter, LCDR; Walter M. Schirra, LCDR; L. Gordon Cooper, Maj.; the three astronauts who left for parts unknown from the launch pad just 873 feet to the south. Wow, that was close to the rocket. The solid blockhouse was a necessity, calling to mind the risks the single astronaut faced wait for the countdown, at the top of an Atlas missile.

Welcome to Complex 14, Launch Site of Free World’s First ICBM, Free World’s First Man In Orbit. Operated for the USAF NASA by General Dynamics Astronautics.

Shortly after their selection, the seven astronauts witnessed a test launch of an Atlas missile, the ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) used to propel them into space. It was an spectacular failure, exploding in front of them. At the time, the missile was not reliable enough to be used to deliver a nuclear warhead.

Scott Carpenter’s Aurora 7 Mercury Atlas rocket lifts off from Pad 14, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 24, 1962.

July 29, 1960 the first test of an unmanned Mercury capsule, Mercury-Atlas 1, lasted just over 3 minutes before exploding 8 miles high and 6 miles away. In the words of Owen Maynard, a NASA systems engineer, “The problem of mating the Mercury capsule to the Atlas was far from being properly resolved at the time of MA-1.”

The Capsule and Launch Escape System of the Mercury-Atlas, the rocket that sent the first American into orbit. Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden.

Col. Glenn’s Memoir

Six test iterations and less than two years later, John Glenn had these thoughts viewing the Atlas rocket the morning of his flight, “Searchlights lit the silvery Atlas much as they had the night we had watched it blow to pieces. I thought instead of the successful tests since then.”

The ruins of the place where John Glenn launched into the first American orbital mission in space. He was atop a Mercury-Atlas rocket.

These were Col. Glenn’s thoughts while sitting in the Mercury capsule, minutes from lift off, “In a mirror near the capsule window, I could see the blockhouse and back across the Cape. The periscope gave me a view out over the Atlantic. It was turning into a fine day. I felt a little bit like the way I had felt going into combat. There you are, ready to go; you know all the procedures, and there’s nothing left to do but just do it. People have always asked if I was afraid. I wasn’t. Constructive apprehension is more like it. I was keyed up and alert to everything that was going on, and I had full knowledge of the situation—the best antidote to fear. Besides, this was the fourth time I had suited up, and I still had trouble believing I would actually take off.”

History

Thankfully, we remember Friendship 7 as a great success. Today, the rocket stands among the others at Kennedy Space Center.

From the left: Mercury-Atlas, Gemini-Titan II, Mercury-Redstone, Delta, Juno I. Taken in twilight, January 30, 2018.
From the Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden, the capsule topped by thee Launch Escape System of the Mercury-Redstone rocket that launched the first American into space.

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, Blue Origin, Mercury-Atlas 1. The photograph of Aurora 7 is from Flickr in “NASA on the Commons” photostream. The Col. Glenn quotes are from Glenn, John. “John Glenn: A Memoir”, (pp. 341, 343). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Click for the next post of this series, “Apollo 1 Anniversary.”

Click for the first post of this series, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.”

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Mercury 7 Pre-Launch Facilities

Hosting Astronaut ZZZZZZZ’s and much more

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).

Overview

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.

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Corner of Central Control and ICBM Roads. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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.

Mercury 7 Memorial, just off ICBM Road

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.

Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 14 and Pre-Launch Support: Hangar S and the Skid Strip

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.

Constructed in 1957, Hangar S served for pre-flight processing from Mercury through the final flight of the Space Shuttle. This is where the Mercury 7 astronauts were first quartered on the second floor and later, is where they stayed prior to flight. The Lunar Orbiter was prepared here.

Comfortable Quarters

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.

La Quinta Inn was the home of the Mercury 7 Astronauts, 1275 N Atlantic Avenue Cocoa Beach, Florida 32931

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.

La Quinta Inn was the home of the Mercury 7 Astronauts, 1275 N Atlantic Avenue Cocoa Beach, Florida 32931
View of the hotel built for and first owned by the Marcury 7 astronauts. They lived here in the early days of the USA space program.

Blastoff!!

Next post will feature images of LC14 from 2018.

Launch of Friendship 7, the first American manned orbital space flight. Astronaut John Glenn aboard, the Mercury-Atlas rocket is launched from Pad 14. Public Domain Photograph by NASA.

ClickMe for the next post in this series, “Launch Complex 14 Today.”

ClickMe for the first post in this series, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.”

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.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Post WWII Launch Complexes on Cape Canaveral

Ghosts from the future?

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.

July 1950 Bumper 8 Launch
By NASA/U.S. Army – NIX 66P-0631, GPN-2000-000613; http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/multimedia/display.cfm?IM_ID=385, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2892820

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.

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse from Launch Complex 3

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.

The 21,000 V2 victims, linked arm in arm, make a circle 15.9 miles in circumference.

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.

Observation Bunker

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.

Looking across Launch Complexes 1 and 2 to Lighthouse Road and the tower. An observation bunker
Observation Bunker from Launch Complex 3, looking across Launch Complex 1.

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

Missile Housing without Engine
Radar Parabola Fragment
Cement Blacked by Rocket Launch Blasts

Aerostat

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.

Another view of the abandoned aerostat building on LC 4

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.

ClickMe for the next post in this series, “Mercury 7 Pre-Launch Facilities.”

ClickMe for the first post in this series, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.”

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.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Cruise Missiles

Decoys and Cruise Control

Here is the fourth 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 closests to the Lighthouse: Launch Complex 21 and 22.

“Vengance Weapons” re-purposed

Vergeltungswaffe 1 (Vengance Weapon 1 AKA V-1), produced at Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea was first used against Great Britan by Germany one week after the D-day landings. 8,025 of these flying bombs, the first cruise missles, caused the death of 22,892 people, mostly civilians. The first cruise missles for the USA were developed less than 1,000 feet away from the lighthouse. After touring the lighthouse we boarded the bus to visit these sites, Launch Complex 21 and 22.

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Launch Complex 21 and 22 are marked with a labled “pin” on this image from Google Earth.

Nature abounds in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This ibis hunted near the lighthouse on our way to Launch Complexes 21,22.

We passed close to the blockhouse first viewed in my post, “Lighthouse and Rockets,” and I captured this detail of the long abandoned structure. The last test launch of a Mace missle was June, 1960.

This wreckage photograph was part of my,“Lighthouse and Rockets” post. It was taken from a lighthouse portal. It is a type of cruise missle, although I cannot identify the exact type, comparing the engine, on the right, with available photographs of the “Bull Goose” and “Mace” missles developed here.

Bull Goose and Mace

Rail launched, as was the German V-1, the missles developed here were called “Bull Goose” and “Mace.” Bull Goose was a delta winged craft intended as a decoy, to appear on radar as a strategic bomber during a nuclear attack. At that time, the rails were in the open. The building here was a revampment of the site for development of the Mace. The other side of this structure is open, the launch rail pointed up from the rear. There are two launch rails, numbered 1 and 2. The building placard is “05961,” the numeral “1” designates site 1. The use of numbers of designate a site is unusual. Letters are used elsewhere on Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center.

The powerful rocket exhause was directed though these pipes. Site 1 is on the right.

Guidance or “Cruise Control”

Navigation is a crucial requirement for cruise missles. The Bull Goose used a gyroscope with no reference to surroundings. The guidance system held the launch bearings, a successful flight was completed within 115 nautical miles of the target.

If deployed, the plan was for thousands of these missles to launch 1 hour before the attack craft set out and 1 hour after. The missles were not armed, but would descend in the thousands around the targets. Similar to what the Germans did to civilians in England.

After three years and 136.5 million dollars the Bull Goose was cancelled because it could not simulate either the B-47 Stratojet or B-52 Stratofortress nuclear bomb delivery aircraft. Not a single decoy was fired in anger.

The building sign “05912” identifies this exhaust tube as being launch site 2.

The Mace, for which this building was created, used a guidance ATRAN (Automatic Terrain Recognition And Navigation, a radar map-matching system). The map was produced on a 35 mm film strip carried on the missle, the live radar returns were “matched” against the film with course correction made for differences. The Mace was of limited usefulness due to the lack of radar maps for target areas within the Soviet Union. The Mace was deployed to Germany and South Korea until phase out in 1969.

ClickMe for the next post in this series, “Post WWII launch complexes on Cape Canaveral.”

ClickMe for the first post in this series, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.”

Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words V-1, Launch Complex 21, Launch Complex 22, Mace, Bull Goose.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Lighthouse and Rockets

from Roman Numerals to Rockets

Here is the third 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 start with Roman Numerals and end with Rocket Research.

Inscribed Roman Numerals

We were lucky to be on this tour, for a period of time the Air Force closed off the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse Foundation obtained permission to start this tour in 2016 (this was January 2018) and I happened to discover it while poking around in preparation for the SpaceX “Falcon Heavy” launch in early February 2018.

As Pam and I climbed, each floor docent (volunteer guide) was so helpful with information and hospitality. At the last floor, the stairway to the upper floors was roped off. Top levels were closed, Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is operational. Here is a photograph of the closed off staircase. There is a roman numeral “6” (VI) inscribed in the staircase column. This is the numbering system described in the first post, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse,” by which the entire 151 foot lighthouse can be disassembled/reassembled as was done in the 19th century.

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Stairway to Upper Floors

The fine finish of the handrail termination for the stairs to upper floors is an example of 19th century attention to detail.

Macro of numeral inscrption on a lower floor stairway column.

Roman Numeral 43 on staircase column of lower floor

View of Space History from the Portals

The lower staircase support column was much wider with space for illustrations and displays. Here is a reproduction of a watercolor of the lighthouse from the earliest days of rocketry on the cape. The lighthouse keeper, assistant and their families lived alongside the tower. The housing was later razed. The Lighthouse Foundation is raising money to build reproductions of the housing.

I put my copyright on the photograph to control copying. The copyright does NOT refer to the artwork.

The painting is an accurate representation of the tower. The dark spots are the windows, or portals, captured in my last post, “Lighthouse Details.” Every portal offered a view of historical or current rocketry. In the following photograph, beyond the outbuilding, is a blockhouse, protection for the early rocket scientists, now abandoned. The structure services launch complex 21 and 22. More in a later post.

Wreckage with Recollections of Werner von Braun

Depending on your viewpoint, the landscape around the tower is either littered with or graced by relics such as the wreckage in the following photograph.

As we stood on the exterior staircase, looking toward the building in the following photograph, the docent told a story of Werner von Braun, how he loved to smoke cigaretts and watch rocket tests from the top of the lighthouse. After some spectactular failures, for reasons of personal saftey he was excluded from the tower. His office during the development of the Minute Man and Persing missles was in this building.

Building next to the lighthouse where Werner VonBraun had an office during the early days of USA rocket research.

This view overlooks the former sites of Minute Man and Persing rocket development. Beyond the launch towers is Port Cape Canaveral, visible to the right are large cruise ships.

Viewed from the Cape Canaveral lighthouse, the port i is in the distance with cruise ships.

Looking from portals facing northeast is this view across ICBM road and its many launch sites. We will visit these in a future post.

Viewed from the Cape Canaveral lighthouse, these are active launch sites.

ClickMe for the next post in this series, “Cruise Missles.”

ClickMe for the first post in this series, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.”

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

A Secretive and Failed Zuma SpaceX Mission

Driving to Cocoa Beach from Ithaca, Pam and I missed a horrendous storm because we did a side trip to Louisville, Kentucky, avoiding I95 January 4th and 5th and a rare and treacherous ice storm.

We met people who were stranded overnight near Savannah, Georgia while, on the same days, we drove Kentucky Hill Country for an overnight at Macon, Georgia all in excellent, dry, cold weather.
The storm itself, was a stroke of luck.  The first Space X launch of 2018 was delayed by the weather until the evening of Sunday, January 7th.
I was in place, in the dark, on Cocoa Beach with my Canon DSLR on bulb mode, securely mounted on a travel tripod.  My choice of lens was the 24 mm “wide angle.”

Proximity to the Kennedy Space Center is a reason we return to Cocoa Beach.  A year ago, March 2007, we did the “Launch Director Tour” offered once a month (if at all) and had a fantastic day. I’ll need to blog about it.

For now, here is a shot from the former Space Shuttle launch room.

Launch Control Center

I planned camera placement well for this night launch.  The view held the entire parabola of the trail. Camera placement was based on researching the launch complex, finding it on Google Earth, using the line feature to determine the orientation of the complex from my location on Cocoa Beach.

Live, the start of the launch is like a dawn in the northern sky.  I broke off the exposure to somewhat capture the effect.

Secretive and Failed Zuma Mission

The human eye, only the Falcon 9 flame is visible, as a single point of bright light ever rising, lighting the beach and clouds in a soft glow.

Secretive and Failed Zuma Mission

The long exposure blends the flame into a bright parabola, at one point the rocket engines throttle back, eventually the color changed to reddish from bright white.  I held the exposure until the rocket flame, in the image, turned to blue and faded away.

We waited for six (6) or so minutes, the camera mount and orientation unchanged, and then the incredible returning booster briefly lit up to land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. I missed the beginning of the burn.  In retrospect, I should have timed the launch and opened the shuttle 5 minutes or so after “blast off.”

Secretive and Failed Zuma Mission

Followed by a TWO sonic boom finale. Kabooom….Kabooom.

We read in the news the secret military satellite, named “Zuma”, on top of the Falcon crashed into the Indian Ocean.  SpaceX claimed the launch was a success (??), that the protective fairing jettisoned successfully.  No mention was made of the secret payload. The failure was with the Northup Grumman built “Zuma” satellite?  Hmmmmm.

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.