There Really Are Rocket Scientists:
I was afforded a great opportunity this past week. Being a member of the Military Affairs Council from the Cocoa Beach Chamber of Commerce, we were privileged to have our March meeting at the Morrell Operations Center (MOC) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Morrell Operations Center was until recently know as the Range Operations Control Center, and it was renamed after General Jimmey R. Morrell, who was the first commander of the 45th Space Wing.
For those who don't know what happens at the MOC, it is the base of all the launches on the Eastern Range. It handles the launches and the command and control systems for the range, and tracks and monitors the performance of the rockets and space shuttles. It was truly a fascinating experience.
We were given a Wing Mission Briefing by vice commander Col. Butler, followed by a tour of the Center. We were able to sit at the actual consoles that are used during the launches, which was pretty cool, and we were briefed by a few officers who are actual "rocket scientists" that talked about their mission, upcoming launches, securing the site for launches, and safety to the public. Sitting there, I really wished I was one, for no other reason than I could use the "rocket scientist" line. 2008 looks to be a busy year, with over 20 launches scheduled at this point.
I always knew that weather was important to the launches; things have to be almost perfect. After the briefing by the 45th weather squadron, I got a new appreciation for it. Various weather conditions can affect the launches, and the one I found most interesting is lightning. Being that Florida is the "lightning rod" for the U.S. It has more lightning strikes than the rest of the country. Obviously lightning could damage the vehicle, and it is very important to take that into account when launching rockets, when considering both natural and the phenomenon of triggered lightning. I was amazed by all the protocol it takes to get a rocket off the ground. It's a wonder it ever happens, but with these great dedicated men and women it does.
If you ever get a chance to visit the MOC, don't pass it up. I know that these tours are rare and I really want to thank all of those involved for their knowledge and gracious hospitality. For me it was a very special event.