Wednesday, April 10, 2013

NASA Launch Complex 5/6 at Cape Canaveral

Another highlight on my tour of south/central Florida was a visit to the historic NASA Launch Complex 5/6 at Cape Canaveral.  It was at this site that the manned space program started in 1961 with a launch of Alan Shepard to 116 miles above the earth on Freedom 7.  Four months earlier, a chimpanzee named Ham was also successfully launched from here, paving the way for Shepard's mission

Me at the Launch Complex 5 site.  A Redstone rocket has been placed here to commemorate the significance of the location.  


The blockhouse right next to the launch pad, built in 1955, which housed the control center for Shepard's flight.  In the later Apollo missions, the launch control center was three miles away from the launch pad.  The windows are fifteen panes thick and the walls are two feet in width.  It had been sealed up for over thirty years but is now available for visiting.  It's also now on the list of National Park Service Register of Historic Places.

Inside the preserved blockhouse, you can see a silhouette of rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun on the window, as he may have appeared during Shepard's launch:

Front view of the Complex 5 blockhouse, with its fortified door weathered by the Florida sun and coastal salt air.


NASA is funded today to look ahead, not back at history, and a lot of the preservation at this site is done by volunteers.

Shepard would go on to be the only Mercury 7 astronaut to walk on the moon (Apollo 14), at age 47.

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