Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring Break: What I saw in Florida.

My black Ford Mustang convertible was resting in Lot 4 of the Kennedy Space Center as I slid my Visa under the ticket booth glass and watched her ring up a $50 charge on my card.

Not cheap but no matter, the American space program still stands as one of the greatest accomplishments in human history. Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Saturn became household names in the 1960s. Dare I say they became mythic.

The early rockets are still to be seen, held in place by guy-wires, sentinels against the darkness of space.

To boldly go ...
The tour bus is the thing to do at KSC. It takes you out to the launch pads from which the successive Apollo missions left earth, culminating in Apollo 11 in July 1969 and the landing of man on the moon.

The madness of the project, the scale of the undertaking, and the huge number of technical, organizational and theoretical problems that needed to be solved simply boggles the mind.

The massive transporter that carried the rockets from the assembly building to the launch pad is an unreal contraption. You’d think there had to be a better way. But apparently, there wasn’t.

How to move a rocket, build a massive platform and put tank treads on the bottom.

And then came Apollo 11 itself. After the 1967 catastrophe of Apollo 1 when astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee were killed in a prelaunch fire, the whole delivery system was reexamined top to bottom. Two million separate systems on the Saturn V rocket were being readied for the mission that would put a man on the moon but the only time to confirm that these systems worked in conjunction with each other was at the actual launch, with Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins strapped into the command capsule, above three-stages of liquid fuel.

Of course the whole thing, from President Kennedy's 1962 Rice University speech to 1969's Giant Leap for Mankind, took uncommon courage. Here’s what the final moments looked and sounded like as the world watched and waited this decidedly American adventure ...

and peculiarly American success ...

The eagle has landed.