"The Greatest Show Off Earth"

by Grant Carrington

New Look, August 1 1975

    This was an article for the Gainesville, Florida, weekly magazine New Look. It was about the launch of an Apollo mission for the Apollo/Soyuz rendezvous in 1975.

    1.6 million pounds of thrust doesn't mean very much to anybody except a physicist...unless you're 3.4 miles away from a Saturn 1B booster sending three Americans into space to rendezvous with two Russian cosmonauts. Then it's a bright orange flame, burning with an intensity that makes you want to turn your eyes away. Then it's the roar of that flame, reaching you 18 seconds after ignition, a ragged roar, full of continual pops and cracklings as the flame rips through the air.
    In Titusville, across Indian River, the Vehicle Assembly Building (or VAB) dominates the low profile of Merritt Island. Then you notice the gantries--one empty, the other containing the Apollo Launch Vehicle. Later, at dark, all eyes are drawn to that floodlit gantry, while the VAB is marked only by a few aircraft warning lights.
    There are not nearly as many spectators for the Apollo-Soyuz shot as there had been for previous manned flights. But there's still about 250,000 and all the motels and campgrounds have "No Vacancy" signs. If you don't have a friend, or a friend of a friend to crash with, you're just out of luck.

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