Monday, June 24, 2019

Day 3469

The weather looks beautiful and the launch is still on for tonight. Amazingly, we were granted direct access to Pad 39A today and got a close up look at the Falcon Heavy rocket during final preparations for launch. To get this close we went through laver after layer of security. When our group got off the bus, everyone was astonished. Nobody gets this close. We were all very careful to follow instructions. When we were told not to cross certain lines, nobody did. 39A is the same launch pad where dozens of space shuttle flights began their journey. Numerous Apollo missions were launched here as well. Now, Space X has a long term lease on the pad and many future missions will begin here. There is a lot of history in this place and a lot of history yet to be made.

Launch Complex 39 was built during the Apollo era. Pads 39A and 39B were originally identical and were meant to be used for the Saturn 5 program. After the Apollo program ended, the facilities were modified to be used for the Space Shuttle. Every shuttle launch began their journey here. Now these historic launch facilities are being modified again. 39A has been reconfigured by Space X to be used for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches and 39B is currently being refurbished to be used by the new Space Launch System that will take us back to the moon.

We got very close to 39A when we were looking at the Falcon Heavy rocket on the pad. We got even closer to 39B. The director of the launch complex took us right up on the pad itself and we got to walk around on it. The size and scope of both these facilities is impressive. There are huge round tanks for liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel. Some of the steel used in the facility is three inches thick. Each pad has a large water tower that is completely emptied during each launch to cool the pad and provide noise suppression. At one point we found ourselves standing in the blast pit where flames from the Saturn 5 booster were directed during liftoff.  If you saw the movie Apollo 11, you know how intense these flames were. We were standing right there.

It was a very busy day. There were other presentations by payload specialists. Many of them started making preparations for tonight's launch over ten years ago. It takes a long time to turn a dream into a reality. 24 different satellites will be along for the ride tonight. An amazing amount of work and effort went into each of them.

We also got to see the astronaut crew quarters where every astronaut stayed prior to launch. Some people took videos of themselves walking out the famous doors where we used to see astronauts in space suits get in their Airstream van for the short ride out to the pad. We also got to meet the folks who recover the capsules after splashdown and provide emergency medical services if necessary. The complexity and number of people required to get a rocket to it's destination and back again is almost unbelievable. The space program we know today is only here because of the commitment of thousands and thousands of talented and extremely dedicated people with almost unlimited resources.  Every one of them were determined to beat the Russians to the moon. I don't think something like this could happen today.

I'll be heading out to view the launch in about an hour. We won't get back to town until well after midnight, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see if the launch was a success. I don't usually stay up this late, but today I think I'll make an exception.

Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day