Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Geek Highways: Wallops Island


Officially, it's called the Wallops Flight Facility but I've never heard anyone call it anything but Wallops Island. It's not like there's a lot of anything else there.

Wallops Island is one of five main flight facilities operated by NASA and, let's be honest, isn't a patch on Canaveral. It's responsible for twenty to thirty sounding rockets a year, only four or five of which are launched locally. The rest are launched from sites around the world as needed. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, which it operates, is probably best known today for the private-industry Antares rockets launched there by Orbital ATK.

Marianne and I stopped here on our way to Kitty Hawk, tracing in reverse a voyage that went from a 59-second flight to the Moon over the space of a single human lifetime. It didn't matter that Wallops Island has only two launch pads. Standing by the road, looking at the parabolic antennas aimed at the heavens, I felt like I was standing on the shores of space.

As of course I was.

As of course, so are we all.

Above: "Little Joe," used to test the Mercury capsule, its emergency escape systems in particular.


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