What took years to build required
only seconds to knock down Aug. 6 when 171 pounds of strategically
placed explosives toppled a historic 179-foot mobile service tower
at the Cape Canaveral AFS.
The 1,300-ton structure was used to launch 51 Atlas/Agena space
vehicles in the 1960s and 1970s. The most famous of those launches
were five Lunar Orbiter missions for NASA in 1966 and 1967. Those
missions photographed about 99 percent of the moon’s surface
and helped pave the way for men landing on the moon in 1969.
The last launch from the complex was in April 1978 and then the
pad was abandoned. Mother Nature then whittled away at the complex
and the old tower, leaving a badly corroded structure in its
Pieces of the rusty tower, along with toxic paint chips, fell to
the ground over the years -- creating safety and environmental
“The demolition of this tower demonstrates our commitment
to safety and a healthy environment,” said Teresa Fiorillo,
45th Civil Engineer Squadron project officer. “Yet,
it’s kind of sad to see this historic structure
“This is where we developed the Atlas intercontinental
ballistic missile,” said Col. Mark Owen, 45th Space Wing
commander. “This is where we sent the launches that NASA used
to help map the moon. It is key to our history. So it is kind of
like seeing an old soldier go. It is sad.”
Dick Ruffe, a retired Atlas systems engineer who helped build
the complex and was involved with many of the flights, was on hand
to witness the demolition.
“We accomplished a lot at (the complex),” he said.
“Hard to imagine it, but it’s all gone in a puff of
smoke. It came down a lot faster than it went up.”
The fallen tower will be cut up and taken to a landfill where it
will be buried in a special cell. It will take about six to eight
months to finish cleaning up the site, officials said. Once
cleaned, it will be available for industrial reuse.