Wrapping Up My Time at KSC

written by David Mixson

The best part of my time at the Kennedy Space Center was seeing so much flight hardware. I never once picked up a wrench and worked on anything that flew into space. I was mostly there to observe, and I did a whole lot of that.

Back in those days, KSC was alive! Every mission had a different crew and a different payload. Every flight needed a new tank and two refurbished boosters. There were lots of moving parts.

I saw a launch from inside the Launch Control Center (LCC). Then, a few days later, I went to Hanger AF and watched them towing in the spent boosters. I gave tours of Columbia and Discovery on the launch pad. I hosted family members for two Shuttle launches. I crawled in the nozzle (under) a loaded Solid Rocket Booster in awe.

And one day, while walking to lunch, I looked up and saw the Shuttle riding piggyback on the specially modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

You never knew what you might see if you’d pause for long enough to notice.

The only place I didn’t see as much as I wanted to was the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF), where Shuttles were refurbished between flights. For some reason, I didn’t have unmonitored access to that building. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t a tourist in there.

But perhaps the biggest takeaway of my time at KSC was just how much it took to keep the Shuttle flying. It seemed more complex up close. And the thousands of technicians who did pick up a wrench, or operate a crane, or get the Shuttle ready to fly between flights, earned my deepest respect for making it all come together.

Those are the men and women who ultimately made the Shuttle work!

I have friends who worked at KSC back then that still talk about how cool it was to be around flight hardware. I think the scarcity of me getting to do that sort of thing made my short time at KSC a little extra special.


NOTE: I want to thank my friend Clay, who worked at KSC for years during Shuttle, for reviewing all my KSC stories. He helped me add the small details that I might have forgotten.

* This article originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of the “Make NASA Great” series.

About the Author

David Mixson writes about Old Space and New Space. He worked as an engineer at NASA for more than thirty years and is the author of three books.

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