@djslack More or less, yes. It’s a risk of the business. I grew up in Titusville, directly across the Indian River from Cape Canaveral. My dad was a safety engineer for one of the many non-NASA contractors at KSC. We used to stand on the front porch and watch launches, which were especially cool at night. (All this stuff was secret, of course. Being a friendly bunch, though, lots of neighbors took advantage of clear, starry nights to talk/holler across the street to chat with folks they hadn’t seen in, oh, five, maybe even six hours.) Some of our neighbors lost glass in their windows when an Atlas blew up on the pad one night. My junior high school let us all out of class one day in May 1961 so we could run 100 yards across US 1 to the bank of the Indian River, where we watched Alan Shepard ride the launch of the first Mercury flight. Utterly amazing. Flash Gordon was coming to life in front of our eyes.
For a real appreciation of the T-whatever holds, though, you had to be one of the many people who’d wrangled an on-base car pass, which meant you’d get up at Zero Dark-Thirty, pack lunch, kids, and beverages into a cooler, and head off in the general direction of the Cape where you’d spend maybe six or seven hours in a seemingly endless stream of slowly moving cars, all headed for a designated parking area. And then your car radio would announce T-2 hours. Resume count down. Hold breath and keep driving. T-49min. Ultimately, if you were even casually unlucky they’d scrub the damned flight completely.
Given the relatively dismal level of safety capabilities at the time, those Mercury pilots were real gutsy guys. Adventurous, brave, patriotic, and, it was rumored, possibly willing to pay the government to let them fly those damned birds. It was an exciting time to live in the area. I feel lucky to have been there at the beginning.
Sorry for the monotonous trip down memory lane. I’ve been housebound for a week with a heavy duty cold and have a bad case of cabin fever. The mere possibility of communicating with someone other than two poodles and a hovering husband (worried that the cold might become pneumonia) the words just spewed forth.