I was in Florida. And it turns out I wrote a pretty decent account of that trip ten years ago today.
So read this!
The tl;dr version – I was 17, somehow got permission to take time off school, made it from a small town in Vermont to Florida, and saw the last Saturn V launch when Skylab launched on May 14, 1973.
It was quite the adventure. You know how they say you learn to make good decisions by living through the bad decisions you make? That trip was FULL of bad decisions, and decisions made out of ignorance. But it was spectacular, definitely changed my life.
Apollo Command-Service Module (CSM) training simulator, seen on the Kennedy Space Center tour a day or two before the launch.
The Saturn IB up on stilts to use the Saturn V launch pad, with the Apollo capsule that would take the Skylab I crew up. It was supposed to launch the next day, but due to the damage the Skylab took on launch it took eleven days of desperate work to figure out how to save the mission and prepare for the rescue. The Skylab I crew launched on May 25th, but I was back in high school in Vermont by that time.
The final Saturn V, with the Skylab spacecraft on top.
In some ways for me, the most simple but amazing fact is that in 50 years I’ve never been back to KSC to see the new museums, the space shuttle Atlantis, or a launch. I’ve been to five NASA Socials (see that “search” box?), I’ve finally seen a launch out of Vandenberg, I’ve been to the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, to the associated Udvar-Hazy museum at Dulles, to a ton of air shows, flown in P-51 Mustangs and a B-25 and a B-29 and done aerobatics in an SNJ and a bunch of other planes with the CAF, and even got my own pilot’s license (gotta get current and get flying again, but that’s a different rant)… But I’ve never been back to KSC.
It can’t be that hard to see a launch these days, SpaceX is launching about once a week or more, ULA has the Vulcan coming online soon and they’re still launching the last of the Atlas missions, Blue Origin is getting ready to go orbital soon.
Gotta fix that. Soon.