Cape Canaveral has ever been a cherished place for the US space program, having hosted some of the most essential space missions stretching back decades. On Thursday, however, some of the most iconic launch sites met their end thanks to some conveniently placed high explosives.
Just after sunrise Thursday, the huge towers at Launch Complex 17 came tumbling down, marking the end of an era for at least a small part of United States spaceflight history.
As local newsgroup Florida Today reports, the demolition went smoothly, with a pair of big launch towers and gantries falling lopsided under their own weight. The site last hosted a launch seven years back, and now after over half a century of regular use and more than 300 launches, the hardware is finally being retired.
The demolition and subsequent cleanup is priced at around $2 million, and a number of contractors will begin the challenging task of removing and recycling 1,700 tons of steel as well as a couple thousand tons of concrete.
“It’s type of a poignant moment thinking back over all of the years of successful Delta missions,” Kennedy Space Center launch director Tim Dunn was quoted as saying. “It gives me a great feeling to remember all of the wonderful missions that I’ve been capable 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.”
The sites assisted launch some incredibly important missions for NASA, including a trio of Mars rovers, countless satellites, and several orbiters that visited planets in our solar system. But the demolition of the aging towers doesn’t mark the end of Complex 17’s use, as spaceflight startup Moon Express is scheduled to take over and start building its own infrastructure for tests and future launches.