The places and some aircraft that made history in the space race

Curious things you can find in NASA facilities with Google Maps

Among the many things you can do with the famous Google maps application is to observe from the air the impressive facilities of the US space agency, NASA.

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The largest installation of NASA: the Marshall Space Flight Center

In this post I will show you some curious things that you can find in those facilities. I'll start with NASA's largest center, the Marshall Space Flight Center, located near Huntsville, Alabama. Created in 1960, here is Building 4550, also known as the Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand, a huge construction 111 meters high located at coordinates 34°37′50.97″N 86°39′40.13″W. This building has a great importance in the history of the Humanity, because here the greatest and most powerful of the rockets of NASA was tested, the Saturn V, that was the used one in the mission Apollo 11 that took to the man for the first time The Moon in 1969. This tower also tested the first prototype of NASA's space shuttles, the Enterprise.

Nearby, at coordinates 34°37'47.6"N 86°40'21.7"W, there is a strange building whose surroundings seem to have burned for years: it is Building 4670, also known as the S-IC Test Stand.

The reason why their surroundings look so devastated is that here they tested the F-1 engines of the Saturn V rockets, as you can see in this video from the Marshall Space Flight Center:

The Kennedy Space Center: the conquest of the Moon began here

Let's go now to the most famous NASA facility: the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, also known as Cape Canaveral because of where it is located. Here, at the coordinates 28°35′11″N 80°39′5″W is one of the largest and most famous buildings in the world: the Vehicle Assembly Building, 130 meters high.

This is where the Apollo Saturn V rockets and space shuttles were prepared for launch. That is, from here the conquest of the Moon began.

The launching platforms of the USAF in Cape Canaveral

Without leaving the Kennedy Space Center, further east, near the sea and in the coordinates 28°36′30.23″N 80°36′15.64″W, is the Launch Complex 39, from which they have been carried out 160 NASA rocket launches since 1969. Below these lines we see Launch Pad 39A:

A little further north is Launch Pad 39B, very similar to the previous one. If you follow the coast line to the south, you will see that there are two smaller launching pads, which are outside the boundaries of the Kennedy Space Center. What do they paint there? What was it for? Well, in this case, they are not NASA facilities. Below these lines you can see the Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) of the United States Air Force (USAF), and if you go a little further down the map you will see another similar complex, the SLC-40. The Titan III-C, Titan IIIE, Titan IV and Atlas V rockets have been launched from these facilities since 1965. Currently, the USAF has leased the SLC-40 to SpaceX for the launch of the Falcon 9 rockets.

The spectacular aircraft of the NASA center in Edwards AFB

Let's go now to California, but not to the beaches, but to the Mojave Desert, specifically to the Rogers dry lake. There is the Edwards Air Base, belonging to the USAF and whose perimeter is the Armstrong Flight Research Center (formerly known as the Dryden Flight Research Center).

The most striking of the image is a Lockheed SR-71B, a two-seater training example of the famous Blackbird, specifically the 61-7956/NASA 831. This aircraft is unique, as only two SR-71B were made, and the other was lost in an accident in 1968. In this 1991 video we can see this plane taking off from Edwards Air Base. She made her last flight from there on Saturday, October 9, 1999.

Next to the SR-71B we can also see a curious version of a famous fighter: the F-15B ACTIVE (61-7956/NASA 831), a version of the interceptor Eagle with canard planes, made in the 1990s to test a system of intelligent flight.

Displayed at the Armstrong Flight Research Center we see other jewels of aviation. From left to right we see a F-104N (NASA 826, one of the three Starfighters used by NASA), a Grumman X-29 (82-0049/NASA 849, is the second of two experimental aircraft based on the F-5 fighter and with curious inverted arrow wings), and two Vought F-8 Crusader fighters (the F-8 Digital, NASA 802, and the curious F-8 Supercritical Wing, NASA 810, equipped with narrower wings and of greater importance). Near the exit is the Northrop HL-10 Lifting Body (NASA 804), a 1966 prototype that was the predecessor of space shuttles.

Here "Houston": the two jewels of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center

There is another NASA facility where we can see another jewel of aviation using Google Maps: the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston (Texas). From here, many space missions have been controlled since 1961. This center became world famous during the Apollo missions for its "Houston" radio call sign. Atention to what they have exposed next to Space Center Houston, in the Independence Plaza:

It is one of the two Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) used by NASA, the N905NA / NASA 905, used during 1977 and 2012 to transport space shuttles. Above she we see the Independence, a full-scale replica of space shuttles built in 1993 and that until 2012 was exposed at the Kennedy Space Center.


Main photo: NASA. The only remaining prototype of the two-seater SR-71B when she was still flying. It currently rests outside the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Base (California).

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