The 100 people gathered at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida early this morning witnessed the iconic towers of Launch Complex 17 (LC-17) collapse under their own weight and tumble to the ground.
Opened in 1957, the historic launch towers were retired today after half a century of activity and more than 300 rocket launches, reports BGR.
Known for a host of legendary launches — including NASA’s first three Mars rovers, Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity, as well as lunar probes, Mars orbiters, and about 50 GPS satellites, notes Spaceflight Now — the towers were put out of commission with a charge of high explosives that detonated just after 7 a.m. EDT (11:00 GMT).
“With a warning siren, a final 3-2-1 countdown and cry of ‘fire in the hole!’, explosives flashed with loud bangs near the bases of the mobile and fixed towers at pads 17A and 17B, sending them toppling sideways in opposite directions,” local media outlet Florida Today described this morning’s demolition activity.
Inaugurated with a series of test launches targeting the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) Thor ballistic missiles, Launch Complex 17 later became known as the launch site of an assortment of United Launch Alliance Delta II rockets, which flew into space carrying some of the most famous cargo in the history of space missions.
Among the Delta II payloads to take flight from LC-17 were NASA’s MESSENGER probe, the first one ever sent to orbit Mercury; the Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes; and the Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres in the asteroid belt.
“It’s kind of a poignant moment thinking back over all of the years of successful Delta missions,” said Tim Dunn, launch director at Kennedy Space Center. “It gives me a great feeling to remember all of the wonderful missions that I’ve been able to be a part of. At the same time, it is the final closure of the Complex 17 book, and with that, a little melancholy.”
In the aftermath of today’s demolition, 1,700 tons of steel and a couple thousand tons of concrete are waiting to be recycled by a number of contractors, tasked with clearing the area and refitting it for a new purpose. The cost of the entire operation, detonation included, is estimated at around $2 million, note the sources.
While the twin launch towers of LC-17 have now exited the scene, the Cape Canaveral site is bound for a new beginning and has been taken over by the private company Moon Express.
The spaceflight firm, which has been developing robotic lunar landers for future NASA missions to the moon, has leased both LC-17 and the adjacent LC-18 from the USAF, but has no use for the twin launch towers.
The company, which last year announced that it will place humans on the moon by 2022 to establish a lunar colony and mine for resources, the Inquisitr reported at the time, will be building its own launch infrastructure and intends to conduct its testing activities primarily at Launch Complex 18, Moon Express chief executive and co-founder Bob Richards wrote on Twitter on July 11.