As noted elsewhere in this blog, Lady CurbCrusher is a lighthouse fan and one of the only lighthouse in Florida that she has not seen is the Cape Canaveral Light. This primarily because the lighthouse is located on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which is closed to the public. Through some means, Lady CurbCrusher found that a free tour is offered the second Wednesday of each month (more here, then follow the tours link) that visits the Air Force Space and Missile Museum, and then stops as the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.
The tour is three hours long (queue Gilligan theme here), and depending our your tour guide, might really feel like six or seven. The tour starts with everyone gathering at the gate to the Cape Canaveral Air Station by 0845. A bus will arrive from Patrick Air Force Base, and your two IDs will be checked and everyone gets on the bus. The tour will then meander around the Air Force Station, driving past a couple of launch complexes, and you will find yourself at the Museum.
The Museum consist of two buildings, the old blockhouse, and a facility next door, and a rocket garden that are all located on an old launch complex. Inside the blockhouse is a launch control room with computing equipment that is fresh from the 1950’s. One exhibit is labeled “Data Printer” and looks like an old Underwood Typewriter with a serial and power cable attached to it. Punched tape (not even magnetic tape) drives labeled as data collection and storage devices, and the analog clock faces that served as a countdown and mission clocks. Even if you’re not a rocket fan, the display of historical technology is pretty cool. The building next to the block house has various photos, and some references to the populations that lived in the area before the space race took over the Cape, and the rocket garden has a number of static displays.
The next stop was the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse. The lighthouse is located about a mile from the actual coast, moved to this spot in 1894 to keep the lighthouse save from beach erosion (which oddly enough has not happened). This lighthouse is made out of iron, so moving it was a matter of taking it apart, and then reassembling it in the new location. Unlike most lighthouse, this one was created with four lower floors for living space (which were never used for that purpose), and then the stairs continue on up the top of the lighthouse. If the Friends of the Lighthouse are present, then the bottom four floors will be open and you can wander through them, otherwise this just becomes a stop on the tour. We were lucky, since the lighthouse folks were there during our tour, so we were able to climb the four floors and talk to the volunteers about the lighthouse and its history.
After this, its back on the bus for some serious touring. A lot of Cape Canaveral is simply launch complexes, and apparently the Air Forces and NASA don’t seem too keen on re-using old launch complexes. So much of the this part of the tour is riding past a concrete pad, maybe a blockhouse structure, that is all overgrown with vegetation and the guide saying “This is launch complex X.” There are 40 something launch complexes and I think our guide wanted to make sure we saw everyone one of them. This is were having a good guide would have probably made a difference. If you had someone that had stories about the launch complexes, and was familiar with them, it could be interesting. We apparently drew the guy who could read the signs “Here is launch complex 23.”
The final stop is Hanger R. The Space and Missile Museum folks have a number of missiles and training artifacts that are stored in this hanger, and maybe more importantly there are facilities (after all the last ones you saw were at the Museum two hours earlier). You can walk around and touch the exhibits and take pictures to your hearts content.
Finally, three hours after it starts, the bus pulls back up in front of the gate to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and lets you off at your car.
Links to pictures of the Lighthouse and Space Museum.