They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

Stone Age Rocket Science

SF author David D. Levine has a great post about being a guest for NASA's launch of TDRS-L. He's already a favorite due to a great SF novella in Alembical II, "Second Chance", and his participation in a manned mission to Mars. (Simulated)

His most excellent trip and review of the Visitor's Center brings me to my own NASA footnote, which I commented there and am expanding here.

Sad to say, I have never seen a major rocket launch. Wendy and Paul lived in Kissimmee FL for a time in the 80s and regularly saw launches from the Kennedy Flight Center. I never made it down to their place but once, and as it was 25°F in Florida, probably just as well that NASA wasn't flying that week. Between Columbia STS-9 and Challenger STS-41-B, and yeah, NASA had some wonky numbering schemes back then.

Still, I did have one brush with space flight -- two if you count half an hour in the NASA Gift Shop in 1983 to buy a black NASA cap...

NASA's approach to visitors has surely grown up. During Thanksgiving 1965 we were in Daytona Beach to visit my grandparents and went to the first weekend you could take a self-guided driving tour of the space center. Gemini VII and Gemini VI-A we're both on their launch pads for their December missions, the only time there were two Gemini missions at the same time -- and maybe the only time for a U.S. spacecraft?

Now here's where research and due diligence trump the memory of a seven-year-old. I was a space geek and sure that Gemini VII was on Pad 19 and Gemini VI-A was on Pad 20 -- and we drove in sight of both. I always assumed the launches were from two different pads. But the historical records say that ALL the Gemini flights were from Launch Complex 19. And according to this article on Gemini VI, although there was a plan to move Gemini/Titan VI by Skycrane to Launch Complex 20, it sounds like VI was disassembled and put in "secure storage" while the heavier VII and launched on its long endurance mission. Unless that storage was at Pad 20, whatever we saw at 20 was probably not Gemini VI.

Still, we did see one manned space launch vehicle on the pad in 1965. (grin)

To say this was a tour would be a stretch -- all we were handed was a poorly made map, so we missed a turn and got surrounded by USAF MPs in the Restricted military range -- no one told them NASA was letting tourists on their site. So we waited politely while radio messages flashed back and forth. Finally they decided we really were just tourists, but warned us not to use our cameras until we left the reservation. When we got back to our missed turn, there was a rusty little sign hanging at an angle that hadn't meant anything to us at the time and the Air Force had a Jeep there and was setting up a guard post to stop other tourists from missing the turn.

We weren't able to get out of the car or even stop. Mother shot a bunch of Dual 8 movies which we dubbed Galloping Gantries.

And we loved it.

Someday I'll find those tiny plastic reels of 8mm film -- Dual 8 was 25 feet of 16mm double perforated movie film shot twice after flipping the spool around and then sliced in half at the lab to make 50 feet of single perf 8mm movies. Hand wound spring drive, a mighty 3x zoom lens -- a fast f1.9 I vaguely seem to recall -- Sears movie camera. Anyway I'd love to get them digitized.

You kids today...

Dr. Phil

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