Monday, October 25, 2010

Before the Future Began

On the road to Bumper ... The intersection of Bumper Road and Central Control Road.

On September 9 I wrote about the free Cape Canaveral Air Force Station history tour provided by Patrick Air Force Base and the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Museum.

That led me to volunteer as a docent for the museum, which among other things grants me access to unrestricted areas of CCAFS.

Today I sought out Launch Complex 3 (LC-3), where on July 24, 1950 the first rocket was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral.

That rocket was designated Bumper 8. The Bumper program was a descendent of Germany's World War II V-2. After Dr. Wehrner Von Braun and his scientists surrendered to the U.S. Army, they were sent to White Sands, New Mexico where they conducted a series of launch tests. The Bumper was a V-2 rocket with a WAC Corporal payload attached to the top. Only one of the six White Sands launches, Bumper 5, was deemed successful.

The Bumper program moved to Cape Canaveral for several reasons, the main one being that rockets could be launched over the ocean where if they failed they wouldn't land on anyone. Two remaining rockets, Bumpers 7 and 8, were shipped to the Cape. Bumper 7 misfired, so Bumper 8 was the first to successfully launch. Bumper 7 flew five days later.

I knew from the bus tour that remnants of LC-3 survived, so I went to the site today to shoot photos and see what I could find.

LC-3 in 1950 with a Bumper rocket on the ring pad.

Not much remains, and what does is not maintained. Below are photos of what I found.

For more information on Bumper, I recommend this page on

I believe this is where the ring pad was located.

A view to the southeast with Launch Complex 46 in the distance.

This abandoned structure across the road was labelled the Operations Control Building.

Looking towards the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse to the southwest.

Contrast this 1950 photo with the one above it. The Lighthouse can be seen in roughly the same location. Based on the road spur to the upper right, I suspect that "Y" might be where the Bumper Road / Central Control Road sign is located today.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Film Festival

Since moving to the Space Coast in June 2009, I've filmed various launches at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, at locations ranging from my driveway to on base.

Some of the videos have posted earlier in this blog, others before it began, so here's a list of all the videos to date:

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Atlas V launch from Pad 41 as seen from Jetty Park fishing pier, June 18, 2009.

GOES 14 Delta IV launch from Pad 37-B as seen from Jetty Park fishing pier, June 27, 2009.

STS-127 Endeavour launch from Pad 39-A as seen from SR-401 near Port Canaveral, July 15, 2009.

STS-128 Discovery launch scrubbed due to rain from Pad 39-A as seen from Kennedy Point Park in Titusville (night launch), August 25, 2009.

STS-128 Discovery launch from Pad 39-A as seen from Kennedy Point Park in Titusville (night launch), August 28, 2009.

The Ares 1-X test launch from Pad 39-B as seen from north Merritt Island, October 28, 2009.

STS-129 Atlantis launch from Pad 39-A as seen from Kennedy Point Park in Titusville, November 16, 2009.

Intelsat 14 Atlas V launch from Pad 41 as seen from north Merritt Island (night launch), November 23, 2009.

STS-129 Atlantis double sonic booms heard over north Merritt Island, November 27, 2009.

Delta IV launch with SATCOM satellite from Pad 37-B as seen from north Merritt Island (night launch), December 5, 2009.

STS-130 Endeavour launch from Pad 39-A as seen from north Merritt Island (night launch), February 8, 2010.

Delta IV launch with GOES-P satellite from Pad 37-B as seen from north Merritt Island (night launch), March 4, 2010.

STS-131 Discovery launch from Pad 39-A as seen from near the Kennedy Space Center Turn Basin (night launch), April 5, 2010.

X-37B Atlas V launch from Pad 41 as seen from north Merritt Island, April 22, 2010.

STS-132 Atlantis launch from Pad 39-A as seen from north Merritt Island, May 14, 2010.

Delta IV launch with Global Positioning Satellite from Pad 37-B as seen from north Merritt Island (night launch), May 27, 2010.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Docent Thing To Do

Launch Complex 26 as it appeared in March 1967. In the distance is Launch Complex 5/6, where Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom launched in their Mercury flights.

On September 9 I posted a blog about the free Cape Canaveral Air Force Station tour offered through Patrick Air Force Base. It's on the second Wednesday of every month.

The tour is organized by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Museum Foundation. Its volunteers staff both the History Center and the Space and Missile Museum on base at the site of the nation's earliest launches.

Click the arrow on the above image to watch a newsreel report of
the Explorer I launch from LC-26 on January 31, 1958.

After the tour, I submitted an application to volunteer as a docent, and was accepted. Today was orientation for the trainees, my first glimpse behind the scenes at a historic site I'd visited many times over the years.

Trainees are given a volunteer handbook that covers mostly operations, policies, guidelines and procedures. To lead tours, a docent must learn the essential facts in a seven-page museum briefing used in a walking lecture given to LC-26 visitors.

Here's a sample:

... On January 31, 1958, at 10:47 p.m., Explorer I lifted off from the launch pad which you can see through the window to your left by the large weight scale indicator. That window, by the way, has forty-five panes of glass in it, three laminated of fifteen panes each, separated by pressure pockets. It is mounted in a wall that is two feet (60 cm) thick. This was to protect the launch crew in case of an on-pad explosion.

Inside the LC-26 blockhouse.

"Volunteer" means, of course, there's no money in it. For me, the compensation is succeeding the original generation of docents, many of whom were individuals who actually worked for the U.S. Air Force on military or NASA programs.

That generation is about to pass on into history. I've visited LC-26 many times since the 1980s, enjoyed hearing all the stories told by the space program's "greatest generation," and wondered what would happen once they pass on. Someone has to step forward when the torch is passed to a new generation, so I decided to be one of them. It seems to be the best way to honor their contribution to the future of humanity.

I look forward to exploring all the historic sites at CCAFS. One such site is Space Launch Complex 17, all too close to LC-26.

This August 1967 photo shows Complex 17 all too close to the museum site.

SLC-17 has been in service since 1956, and the site of Delta II launches since 1989.

Its most infamous launch was on January 17, 1997, when a Delta II carrying a GPS satellite exploded seconds after takeoff.

Click the arrow on the above image to watch the Delta II explosion.

In the above video, you'll see debris rain down on the complex.

According to NASA's online schedule, the last Delta II launch at CCAFS is scheduled for September 8, 2011, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) project.

After that, it appears that Complex 17 will be retired from service.

We docents will have a front-row seat. Although after watching that 1997 video, I may prefer the balcony.

Ameicans Divided on Space Exploration

The latest Rasmussen Reports poll found that respondents are evenly divided on whether the United States should cut back on space exploration.

When it comes to cutting back on space exploration, Americans are evenly divided. Forty-one percent (41%) believe the United States should cut back on space exploration, down nine points from January, but an equal number (41%) disagree. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure.

The question posed was, "Given the state of the economy, should the United States cut back on space exploration?"

Particularly interesting is that more respondents now believe the government should fund the space program. The question was, "Should the space program be funded by the government or the private sector?"

Forty percent (40%) of Americans feel the space program should be funded by the government, up slightly from April. Thirty-two percent (32%) say funding for the program should come from the private sector. Twenty-eight percent (28%) are undecided.

In the April 2010 poll, more Americans than not thought the private sector should fund the space program, 38% to 36% with 25% not sure.

In the January 2010 poll, here's what the poll showed:

Americans are almost evenly divided when asked if the space program should be funded by the government or by the private sector. Thirty-five percent (35%) believe the government should pay for space research, while 38% think private interests should pick up the tab. Twenty-six percent (26%) aren’t sure which is best.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


No, President Bush didn't really hand out Easter eggs at a 2005 press conference supposedly called to announce the cancellation of the Space Shuttle program.

Florida Today published a letter in its October 5 edition that, while well-intentioned, cited phony remarks by former President Bush about the Shuttle program.

President Bush sent shuttle fleet packing

After reading another letter blaming President Obama for the demise of NASA, I came away wondering where the writer was when President Bush signed a decree canceling federal funds for the shuttle program?

Bush stated: "We cannot find any justification to continue the deficit funding of a program that has no application other than proving that, with enough money, America can do anything."

That was in 2005, so one must ask why Obama is being blamed for the dismantling of the shuttle program.

Going further, Bush commented: "I don't want to see another NASA administrator -- appointed on my watch -- left to justify a program to Congress based on lies, disinformation, half-truths and sexed-up reports."

It was in 2004 that Bush announced a plan to shut down the shuttle program -- long before the name Obama was known to most Americans.

At the time, the Republican Party controlled the House and Senate and could have easily overridden any veto by the president. But they choose to stay silent.

Now that reality has set in, these same legislators and NASA workers are lying to themselves as to who is responsible. They never believed it would end.

George Bush is long gone, but his deeds are still with us.

Gary Guido
Merritt Island

Although Mr. Guido is right about Bush cancelling Shuttle, the quotes are totally bubkes.

The quotes came from an April Fools day article that was posted April 1, 2005 on the Space Daily web site.

Among the clues that the article is fake is that it claims Bush handed out at the press conference Easter eggs he bought at Wal-Mart, and a quote that he was going to sell the International Space Station on eBay.

Earlier this year, I covered the history of Shuttle's cancellation in two articles:

"Why Bush Cancelled the Space Shuttle"

"When Bush Cancelled the Space Shuttle"

I have a third article in mind which will be written when I have the time that looks at the aftermath of Bush's Vision for Space Exploration and the failure to properly fund it.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I've been scarce in recent days for a few reasons, the main one being my personal computer suffered the dreaded Blue Screen of Death, or B.S.O.D.

It's a phenomenon unique to Microsoft Windows computers, so I'm sure those of you in the Macintosh and Linux worlds are having a good chortle at my expense.

After three days in the shop, it appears the problem might have been related to Norton Anti-Virus. I deleted NAV from my Windows Vista computer and the problem went away — for a while.

Anyway, the B.S.O.D. and other matters have kept me from commenting on Brevard County space.

The House ignored the pork-laden FY2011 NASA bill that came out of its own space subcommittee and instead voted 304-118 (72%) to approve the less pork-laden Senate version. A two-thirds approval was needed on the House floor to pass the Senate bill, which means many Republicans voted for it, so it was a pretty clear rejection of their own subcommittee's version.

The final bill, S. 3729, goes to President Obama for signature. The White House endorsed the bill and urged the House to approve it, so it seems likely the President will sign it into law.

Click here to read the 42-page bill in its entirety. I want to find the time to read through it myself, but as noted I haven't had the time and won't for a while.

Florida Today reports that 900 United Space Alliance workers were laid off today, although they'd known for years this day was coming.

On a personal note ... I wrote on September 9 about the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station museums and tour. I've been accepted to be trained as a docent by the Air Force Space & Missile Museum. I'm told it will give me access to many historic locations at CCAFS, so hopefully I'll be able to do photos, video and write articles about CCAFS history.