Fifty years ago this week, Apollo X came VERY close to landing on the moon as the last flight to test all the components of Apollo. Apollo XI would land in two months. The Apollo X lunar module (Snoopy!) descended to less than 9 miles from the surface. Growing up near Cape Kennedy, I was riveted, and my favorite astronaut, John Young, piloted. He had already flown two Gemini missions, would return to the moon on Apollo 16, and fly the space shuttle.
In the images below, you can see the Vehicle Assembly Building where the Saturn V rocket components would be assembled. The land to the west and north of the launch facilities are now protected by the Cape Canaveral National Seashore and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The wetland is a wonderful place for wildlife and landscape.
Cape Kennedy is now used for private business launches, such as Space X below, as well as military launches at the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In December 1972, I was fortunate to be at the launch viewing stands for the final Saturn V launch, and the only one to occur at night. Each county school was able to send one teacher and student to the launch. Thanks Mrs. Cramer! The Saturn V was the most powerful rocket built, and it was like instant dawn when the five engines fired, and trees and clouds were lit up. As it lifted, the roar and vibrations hit you. Unfortunately, I only had a Kodak Instamatic at the time, not some good telephoto glass.
The 50th Anniversary celebrations for the first moon landing in July are gearing up. NASA will be starting preparations for a potential Mars landing. If you want your name to go on the 2020 flight which will send a rover to the planet, submit it to them now.