Welcome to my Space Is The Place* home page. I have been
interested in spaceflight all my life. Perhaps this resulted from my coming of
age and developing an awareness of the larger world during the 1960's, when
mankind made its first tentative steps beyond our protective Earth, decided
that the Moon was the first goal, and BY GOLLY GOT THERE WITHIN THAT SAME
DECADE!!! Pretty impressive for someone of my age in those years (i.e. 6 to
16), and proof to me that anything is possible. Mankind's destiny has to be
"The dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't have a space program"
- Arthur C. Clarke, science/science fiction writer, visionary and author of "2001 - A Space Odyssey"
My intension on this site is to convey my enthusiasm for spaceflight by describing the exciting visits I have made to space launch sites all over the world, and displaying some of the models of spacecraft and launch vehicles I have built over the past nearly 60 years, while relating what inspired me to build them, the stories behind the models (sometimes personal) and their importance in the political and technological history of spaceflight. My Space Is The Place website thus consists of two main parts:
If after perusing through these pages you acquire an increased sense of excitement about spaceflight and the potential it holds for mankind's future, then I will have achieved my goal.
*Note - credit for the name of this website goes to the late jazz band leader, black prophet and native of the planet Saturn (so he claimed), Sun Ra, who titled a song, album and film "Space is the Place". (note this is an MP3 file, as are other audio files on this page)
Edgar Mitchell visits "the Shrine" - in June 2006 I was honoured to have the late Dr. Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut and sixth man to walk on the Moon, visit my home, and in particular the "Shrine" (click to go page 3 with "Shrine" section) to whom the room is now dedicated.
Since the early 1990s I have been privileged to be able to visit launch centres on five (5) continents! (I've only missed Africa & Antarctica) For someone with a life long interest in the subject like me, this has been a thrill beyond words. My trips to the following space centres are briefly reviewed below:
In July, 1992 I toured space facilities in Russia and Khazakstan with a group of 24 people for about ten days. The Cold War had recently ended and just seven months earlier the Soviet Union had dissolved, so we saw Russia much as it would have been during the Communist era. While we did the usual tourist things like see Red Square and the Kremlin, for we "space cadets" the highlight of the trip was a three day visit to the Baikonour Cosmodrome, the once top secret Soviet spaceport on the steppes of central Asia in Khazakstan (see map for location).
This (left) is a photo of our tour group in front of a sign (in Russian, of course) announcing "Baikonour". I am top left popping my head out from behind the fellow in the red and blue striped shirt with a hat. I have become life-long friends with a number of the fellows I met on this trip, the so called "Baikonour Boys". You will see reference to several of them on this site.
The high point of our visit to Baikonour was watching the launch of three cosmonauts, two Russians and one French, in the Soyuz-TM15 spacecraft to the Mir space station.
To the left is a photo of me standing in front of a Proton rocket on its pad. The Proton is a heavy lift vehicle used, amongst many other things, to place modules of the Mir space station and the International Space Station in orbit.
We were allowed incredible access to the facilities in Baikonour. We were taken inside and under the pad that launches the Soviet space shuttle Energia-Buran (video file), then from there right up to the level where the cosmonauts enter the spacecraft.
We walked underneath in the flame pit and on top of the historic "Gagarin Pad" from which the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, was launch on April 12th, 1961. This pad also launched the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik (MP3 file audio file), on October 4th, 1957, and thus began the space age, as well as the Soyuz TM-15 launch we had witnessed the previous day. This pad has launch literally hundreds of variants of the R-7 rocket, like the Vostok & Soyuz launch vehicles, since 1957. We toured a number of the buildings at Baikonour as well (see thumbnails below).
In the photo on the left I am relaxing on the runway in Baikonour on which the Buran space shuttle orbiter landed (video file) after its two orbit, unmanned flight in November of 1988. The Buran only flew in space that one time, and its huge carrier rocket, the Energia only one other time (May 1987). Shortly after developing this impressive capability the Soviet Union dissolved and Russia did not have the funding to carry on with this program. One of the impressions I came away with, especially after seeing the magnitude of the equipment for the already discarded Energia-Buran project such as the huge Transporter for the Energia Rocket (click for photo), was that the Soviet Union had been a relatively poor, almost third world country with a superpower's military and space program. Resource mis-allocation on this scale could only be possible in a totalitarian society.
We were back in the Moscow area three days after the launch of Soyuz TM-15 and were in the Russian mission control centre in the Moscow suburb of Korolev (named after the great Soviet chief designer of spacecraft and launch vehicles whose name was a top secret until his death in 1966) to see the Soyuz spacecraft dock with the Mir space station on a live television link.
Next to the Russian mission control is the S.P. Korolev Space Corporation Energia Museum, which contains many historic exhibits, including the first manned spacecraft, Yuri Gagarin's Vostok re-entry module. This museum blew the minds of all of us, and is surely on a parr with the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, DC. However, unlike the crowds one typically finds at the NASM, the 24 of us were virtually the only people in the Energia Museum that day!
While in the Moscow area, and before heading to St. Petersburg where our Russian tour ended, we also took in the Yuri Gagarin "Star City" Cosmonaut Training Centre, Monino Air Museum (Soviet Air Force), and the Khrunichev Plant where the Mir Space Station and Proton rockets are manufactured.
In late February/early March 1993 I spent eight days in Florida visiting and touring buildings at the John F. Kennedy Space Centre, staying with my friend, the late Ron Caswell. This is undoubtedly the most famous spaceport in the world and is named for the American President who set the landing and safe return of a man on the moon within the decade of the 1960s as a national goal in a speech to Congress on May 25th, 1961 (MP3 audio file). In the photo at left I am standing in front of Pad 39B. This is one of two pads (see also thumbnail below of Pad 39A, also previously used for the Saturn V and Space Shuttle, but now leased to SpaceX) built back in the 1960's originally for the Saturn V moon rocket, which was refurbished to accommodate the Space Shuttle in the late 1970s, and most recently NASA`s Artemis Program`s Space Launch System (SLS) for human space exploration beyond low Earth Orbit. Interestingly, the pad that launches the Soviet space shuttle, Energia Buran, has a similar history, having originally been built to launch the long secret Soviet moon rocket, the N-1.
I was lucky enough to have a friend (the late Butch Head) able to pull strings with NASA officials to get a "Centre Director's Gold Pass" (which is what I am holding up in the photo in front of Pad 39B), which allowed us access (when accompanied by Ron Caswell, then an engineer at KSC) inside many of the buildings at KSC, including the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) where Discovery was being refurbished at the time and the Operations and Check-out Building (O&C) - see thumbnail photos below. I am now most thankful that I had the opportunity to tour inside these buildings when I did. In this post-911 world, I am quite sure an "ordinary citizen", not to mention a Canadian citizen, would not be allowed such access.
Incidentally, I had originally booked my flight to Florida and vacation to see the launch of the Space Shuttle (STS-55). In the event this launch took place two months late (technical glitches, followed by a pad abort). It was almost 13 years before I returned to "the Cape" and finally did see a launch there in January 2006, though not a Shuttle launch...see below!
A number of the guys who first met on the trip to Russia in 1992, the so called "Baikonour Boys" arranged to meet at "the Cape" in January of 2006 for a reunion and to see the New Horizons (link to NASA website) spacecraft launched to Pluto. (for an MP3 audio interview about the New Horizons mission from January 2006 click here This was just five months after our dear friend and fellow "Baikonour Boy" Butch Head met an untimely death in an auto accident and Butch was truly there in spirit throughout our time together. In fact, the Atlas V 500 with the New Horizon's spacecraft was supposed to be launched on January 17th but was scrubbed that day and the next and finally launched on January 19th. As Bob McCullough noted, it was Butch's way of keeping us together a bit longer.
We watched the launch (video file) from the deck of the late Ron Caswell's condo, situated directly across the Indian River from the launch site. The photos and video of the launch below were taken from Ron's deck.
Ron, who had seen literally hundreds of launches, noted that he had never seen a rocket jump off the pad as quickly as the New Horizons Atlas V, and as indicated in the above audio file, New Horizons will be the fastest travelling spacecraft ever.
Later in the year I built a model of the New Horizon's Atlas V launch vehicle (click on thumbnails to enlarge):
Incidentally, the same group who assembled in Florida for the launch of New Horizons to Pluto in January 2006 reconvened nine and one half years later in Seattle at the time of New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto in July 2015. We had dinner for 10 including wives at the top of the Space Needle, and the next morning "flew" the Shuttle simulator in the Museum of Flight. Pictured is the patch and crew of STS-144 with Commander Matt Nelson..
Click here to continue on to the second page which continues with descritions about my visits to various space centres around the world, while the third , fourth, fifth, and sixth pages display some of my models of historic spacecraft and launch vehicles.
This page will change and evolve over time, so check back periodically. I welcome any questions or comments and can be contacted at:Ken R. Harman last revision date: January 2021