BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - For the first time since the retirement of the shuttle fleet, WFTV was able to get an inside look at NASA launch operations at Kennedy Space Center.
The pad represents decades in launch advancement and there's still hope that someone will put it to use, before it's too late.
The Launch Complex 39A was built for the Apollo missions, modified for the shuttle program, and now lies dormant.
"We've had people who've spent 30 to 40 years babying this system to keep it at the highest standards on earth," said Steve Bulloch, NASA pad manager.
There's is a sense of history at the pad. Like the rubber room that sits several feet beneath the launch pad. It was originally designed to protect Apollo astronauts from the equivalent of a one kiloton blast. There was a slide attached from the surface to the rubber room below. From there, it was a few quick steps to the blast room.
The blast room has concrete walls about
4-feet thick, reinforced with steel. If things went wrong, astronauts could strap in and wait out a launch emergency.
After the Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts in 1967, only ground personnel were trained to use the blast room. It was decided an aerial escape would be safer for the astronauts.
Now the entire facility, from its launch vehicle climate controls to its rotating service structure, are all winding down. The hope is to maintain
enough capacity, so if needed, the facility could be resurrected.
"We've been very spoiled. We're taking part in something that was truly unique, and we constantly had a close and definable mission," said Bulloch. "And right now we're trying to refocus on the future."