by Fred J. Becker


This proposal calls for transforming the KSC Visitors Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station into a world-famous tourist destination. The key attractions will be elevator rides to the top of historic launch towers where tourists can relive the bravery of the astronauts and view the great achievements that were the rockets. The towers and launch pads will be reconstructed with modern corrosion-resistant materials. Actual rockets from Rocket Park can be used, or new mockups could be built. Eventually a monorail or maglev tour will bring tourists to the tower sites. The maglev can eventually connect to other maglev routes to be built around KSC and Florida to demonstrate the technology as a way to improve US transportation. For long-term preservation, the towers and rockets will be enclosed in transparent, climate-controlled, reinforced geodesic domes.

History and Philosophy

From earliest beginnings in 1950 to the conclusion of Apollo in 1975, Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center were sites for the golden age of space exploration. Cape Canaveral also hosts sites where some of the arms race was manifested as intercontinental ballistic missiles were developed and tested. The best and the worst possibilities for the future, opening space and waging a nuclear war, came to a focus at this key location in time and space. Both these stories can be told as the early satellite, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle pads, as well as ICBM row and other militarily historic pads are opened for the first time to tell their full story. Preserving and displaying the launch pads, where all this history took place, will remind Americans and the world of the future and the past. The political turmoil, which swamped the Apollo program, has passed. The arms race too, is largely passed. And now the opportunity can exist to take stock, and press on. Yes Apollo met Kennedy’s goal of landing on the Moon by the end of the sixties, but the implications of his goal have not been met. We have not continued to send humans beyond low Earth orbit, to continue the "long-range exploration of space" which Kennedy said was the importance beyond the Moon-landing goal. The future still beckons, to return to the Moon and on to Mars.

Monorail Space Station

At the South side of the KSC Visitors Center parking lot, is the Monorail Space Station. Gone are the boring diesel buses. An enclosed moving walkway from the east side of the Visitors Center takes tourists over to the Monorail Station. It is rather like the Monorail entrance at Disney World. But it also features a large elevated viewing platform where guests can stand and look with built-in binoculars or viewing scopes towards the launch pads at Cape Canaveral and KSC. There will be several monorail tracks at the station, to handle several cars. Rather than being arranged horizontally, these tracks will be vertically and horizontally spaced. This will present a sense of scale. This monorail station might also be along the West or East side of the lot. The viewing platform will be above these tracks, to give the widest possible vista. Some distance away all the tracks from the station will approach the same height and then merge.

Car Design

The monorail cars will be sleek and futuristic. They will be large to accommodate a large group for efficiency of logistics. Since the purpose of the monorail tour is to give views and vistas, the cars will have clear sides and tops. Doors will open on only one side for safety purposes. Walls at the stations will prevent any access to the tracks once the cars depart, again for safety purposes. Each seat will feature a full-back cushion and padded headrest, fully adjustable with utmost consideration for ergonomics. Each monorail vehicle will be named after one of the original astronauts from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo.

Launch Pad Layout

The launch pads will be reconstructed where they originally were. This is more historically interesting than reconstructing them elsewhere, including being near the original blockhouses. However the Pad 39 is still in use, so the Saturn tower would be difficult or impossible to restore there. In addition the original Redstone, Atlas and Titan pads are also fairly near some operational launch pads, so there may be interference there and also the risk of damage to the historic pads by any launch accidents. But launches there are not very frequent, so the monorail tours would not be contstrained so much by that.

Another alternative might be to reconstruct the launch pads in a straight line along the unused portion of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station or the wildlife refuge north of KSC. But both of these present problems—possible interference with Cape Canaveral Air Force Station or valid environmental objections to destroying the wildlife refuge.

Yet another option is to put all these reconstructed pads and towers along the West shore of the Banana River. This would be closer to the KSC Visitors Center and would not interfere with any of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station operations.

Launch Pad Features

Not only will the launch towers be in place, but ancillary towers too, the ones that fit against the main tower for additional vehicle servicing. These will not be closed in normally, but can be on rails to move back and forth just as the real ones did. This will include the Saturn V Mobile Servicing Structure, the Titan erectable service structure and the Atlas and Redstone gantries.

Where feasible, existing structures will be restored. A Redstone tower is still in place at the Air Force Space Museum. This will be refurbished to exactly replicate the manned version. Some Titan structures still remain, but do have rusting. The primary structure to be restored in this project is the original Launch Umbilical Tower from Apollo 11. This sits in sections still on KSC land. The sections can be moved only by dismantling and trucking or by using railways that may already exist.

In addition to the launch towers and rockets, the launch pads will be rebuilt. This includes the Atlas base, Titan base, Pad 34 base and the enormous Saturn V base of Pad 39A. The trucking in or barging in of the enormous quantities of sand for the Saturn V makes this one of the biggest jobs of the whole effort. This could be done in stages though. A platform of the right height made from concrete could start the job. The pad would gradually fill in around this platform while the mobile launch platform and tower were built atop it.

Where to Build the Saturn Pad

Rather than rebuilding the huge Pad 39A base, the original one may be used. One possibility is that Pads 39A and 39B will be retired when the Shuttle is eventually replaced around the year 2010 to 2020. It would be a big decision to do this, for it would mean most likely that the VAB would be retired as well. This represents an enormous infrastructure for large vehicles, so it is not likely to happen. But if this did happen, Pad 39A could be rebuilt in its exact Apollo configuration while Pad 39B could be left in its Shuttle configuration. Both vehicles could be replicated as well, or an actual Shuttle could be used for its pad. Before domes might be constructed, the VAB could serve as a safe haven for these vehicles during storms and extreme weather.

Should the next generation of launch vehicles be using the VAB and Pad 39 facilities, another location for the Saturn and Shuttle pad replicas must be chosen. Again the West bank of the Banana River is one site. A location near the Saturn V Center museum might also be good. Yet that is rather close to the Shuttle landing strip, which will be still active. Another option is to simply park the Mobile Launch Platforms with vehicles near the VAB. However, no safe haven would exist and building of domes would be difficult with not a lot of room there.

Monorail Track Layout and Typical Tour

The monorail leaves the Visitors Center gates going east and out along the NASA Causeway, then runs South for several miles, then turns left towards the first pads on the tour. The figure below shows the route. At this turn, there is an optional turn towards Port Canaveral and the tourist ships. Indeed the monorail system will serve to link to these ships for tourist transportation from Titusville.

This route shown is not the only option. The route could for instance be built along the west bank of the Banana River. It could also be split into two or more routes, much like the separate Canaveral and KSC tours that used to be in place. This route is chosen because the initial view going across the Causeway is going to be more spectacular.

First Stop, Mercury Redstone, Pad 5 and 6

The first Monorail stop occurs as ICBM Row comes into view. The monorail pulls alongside the Redstone gantry at Pads 5 and 6. A short narration describes the flights of Shepard and Grissom. Guests disembark and walk through the White Room there. Tour guides give a description while white room personnel fit a silver-suited astronaut into the capsule. This stop also includes a visit to the pad and gantry for Explorer 1, the first American satellite and a Jupiter C, the rocket that launched it. A Vanguard rocket and pad will also be viewed here. If possible replica pads and rockets from Robert Goddard’s pioneering efforts will also be constructed. A V2 pad will also be shown, though perhaps this will be constructed in place on Pad 1. The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse will also be a feature to see or stop at. This first phase of the tour will give viewers a good sense for how it all began.

Second Stop, Mercury Atlas, Pad 14

The monorail leaves for the Mercury Atlas pad while the onboard announcer talks about the flights of Glenn, Carpenter, Schirra and Cooper. The same capsule demonstration happens there. The monorail stops at each pad for a similar ride up the elevator to the capsule or crew cabin. Each launch pad facility is enclosed fully within a glass/plastic clear geodesic dome. The domes have large doors through which the monorails enter smoothly. Stairways and escalators take the visitors from the monorail down to ground level at the base of the pads. They enter elevators there that carry them up to the cabin level.

Tourist Traffic Flow Questions

One issue about this is: how can a monorail full of people fit into a pad elevator for the capsule tours? A White Room and the elevator can hold perhaps ten people at the most comfortably. Yet a monorail will have 50 people. One answer is to take turns. Ten people at a time will go up the elevator while the remaining 40 can be exploring the base of the pad. Or perhaps five will go up the elevator each time. Each group will get to spend ten minutes at the pad this way, so that each pad visit takes 50 minutes or 100 minutes, for example. Another answer is to have the monorail itself stop at the capsule level and disembark the passengers at a specially constructed platform that leads to the capsule-level of the tower. Then everyone can be viewing from this level while five to ten at a time go over into the White Room. This will eliminate the time going up the elevator. This option is best for the lower pads of Mercury and Gemini, but is unrealistic for Apollo Saturn 1 or Saturn V. For these pads, a new elevator tower could be built alongside the existing tower, or the servicing structures could be used to hide newly built larger elevators. These elevators could take 50 at a time up to the capsule level where again smaller groups can enter into the White Room.

Groups and functions can also be accommodated. People will also be able to spend a whole day visiting just one pad if they wish. The concept of the traffic flow question though, is to provide a guided experience, not to have these be national monuments, but more of a learning environment. It is expected that most tourists will take these guided tours which see all the pads in one tour.

Third Stop, Gemini Titan, Pad 19

Next the monorail will stop at Pad 19, where all the Gemini missions were launched. Here the Titan and capsule can be seen. At the White room level, two astronaut actors will demonstrate how they entered the capsule. An Agena target vehicle will also be on display in the complex. Several cars from the year 1965 will be placed around, as if pad workers were out on a lunch break.

Fourth Stop, Apollo Saturn 1B, Pad 34

The next stop ahead will be where the true scale of the Moon Race becomes evident. Here too the human story of effort and sacrifice are told. For the Saturn 1B is truly a giant compared to Titan 2. This is also where the crew of Apollo 1 were tragically killed in the capsule fire during a ground test. This story will be told at the pad, and there will be no elevator ride at this one.

Fifth Stop, Apollo Saturn V, Pad 39A or Replica

The culmination of the Moon race comes next into view, the 363-foot tall Saturn V atop a giant Mobile Launch Platform, with Launch Umbilical Tower and Mobile Service Structure. The monorail rides at an incline as it comes up to pad level atop the launch base. Passengers disembark and are allowed to walk around on the top of the Mobile Launch Platform. From there they are all taken as one up elevators to capsule level. These will be new larger elevators added to the sides of the tower, or a separate new tower that takes them slowly up to the top as the view gets higher and higher.

Sixth Stop, Space Shuttle, Pad 39B or Replica

Finally the tour will move on to present day, the near past and near future as the Space Shuttle on Pad 39B or a replica. The monorail will approach and stop at the pad in a different route than at the Saturn V, so that a different experience will be given. Perhaps the monorail will pull up alongside the fixed service structure half way up, and the tourists can explore the tower from there. The rotating service structure will be in the open position. An option will exist to close the structure and open the Shuttle payload bay doors.

Dome Features

At each dome, there will be a gift shop, restrooms, a restaurant, a movie theater for 100 people, and museum display. It will be very much like the features of the Saturn V Center.

The geodesic dome structure will be fairly simple for the smaller pads, but for the Saturns and Shuttle, some larger features are needed. The Saturn V dome is the largest, and will be 500 feet in radius. It will be made from main trusses 25 feet long. Three of these are joined to make a triangle. An inverted triangle is completed next to it, and so on. First the ground layer of triangles are laid down. Atop these the next layer are added. The domes are built from the ground up this way, and are self-supporting during construction. Inside the outer layer is a second layer formed by additional trusses forming an icosahedron (3-D triangle). The tips of these on the inside are also joined together, forming the inner dome layer. Thus the 500-foot tall dome will have a skin 25-feet thick. The outer dome trusses then feature glass-or plastic supporting features. First there will be a network of 5-foot triangles (or whatever the size is that fits) within the 25-foot ones. These smaller triangles will each hold a pane of glass or plastic. The glass will not simply slip into a slot in the trusses, but will have a fairing over the slot, to keep out rain and sun. Over this fairing and below will be a gasket, and on top of the gasket protective layers of material. The dome will be designed to last centuries and protect the pads from hurricane, sun, rain and frost.

Along the inner layer of the dome, will be strips of solar panels, generating electricity that is stored in batteries to assist in running the air conditioners and more. The strips of solar panels will not block the sunlight or view much, but instead simply cover the outside-facing surfaces of the dome inner struts. It may be more optimum to have glass that can darken in daytime, in which case the solar panels could be on the outer struts, built in such a way as to be well sealed beneath glass.

Should the dome be built first, a crane can be mounted in the roof, for hoisting pad components into place. Otherwise the pads can be built using standard construction cranes. The domes can be built next with these cranes, or a crane unit can be designed to traverse the ever-rising dome top and then be lowered down from the center as the last piece of the dome cap is put in place.

Geodesic domes are often viewed as fragile things, but these ones will be extremely tough and protective. They will be based in a perimeter of concrete or steel, several feet high to provide protection against hurricane-force tidal waves. The plastic or glass will be thick enough to withstand hurricanes. The domes will have double or triple layers of reinforced truss-work to support themselves against stresses.

It would be best for the monorails to enter directly into the interior of the domes (when built). This way the tourists will enjoy an enclosed environment at all times, during hot Florida summers and cold winters.

Simulated Countdown

Part of the pad experience will be a simulated countdown. A huge PA system will reply actual recordings from a launch of the vehicle of the type shown in the dome. Dry ice (carefully metered to maintain dome oxygen) will simulate cryo boiloff. As T-0 is reached, the PA system will generate significant decibels to thrill the audience. A large smoke machine and bright lights to simulate flames might also be used, but this is probably not feasible unless the glass windows can be opened, and even then would depend on prevailing wind directions.

Capsule and Crew Cabin Visits

A feature of the tour will be the visit to the white room. Ideally there might be a way for every tourist to also get an opportunity to actually climb into the cabin. For Mercury capsules, this will be only available to people who are small enough. For Apollo, most people could fit inside. If the tour is busy as expected, there may be no way to let everyone do this. So a raffle of each monorail car could determine who gets to do this. While the raffle winners sit in the capsule chairs (one for Mercury, two for Gemini, three for Apollo, and seven for Shuttle), audio from a countdown would be playing inside, and a guide could be describing the cabin to them via audio.

In addition to access to capsules up on the rockets, a number of capsule simulators can be built on the ground near the pad, and this will allow many people to have a seat inside to see how the original astronauts lived. These might even feature motion-based rides and realistic movement of control panel dials and lights, with piped-in radio messages. Jolts during a simulated launch would replicate the experience of stage separations. Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules would be available. The blockhouses and launch control centers could also be replicated. Families and groups can split up duties and some can go into the capsule while the rest participate as launch control. They'll each get a script they can read from following a taped launch countdown. Inside the capsule, the family members can be clothed in simulated Mercury, Gemini or Apollo space suits. A few minutes before launch, there would be a moment for the ground crews to send their best wishes for a safe launch, and for the astronauts to reply. At launch the capsules will move about as sound levels are simulated and window views and instruments move. In the launch control center, a launch will be visible through simulated windows, much like the Saturn V launch simulation at the Saturn V Center at KSC.

Photographs and Mementos

Another feature of the tour will be photographs. A modern digital camera system and printer will allow everyone to have an instant picture taken. These can also be emailed as files to their homes. Examples of photos are: at the base of the tower looking up, at the top looking down, standing alongside the crew cabin, sitting inside the cabin, and so on. Realistic-looking space suits could also be rented for them to try on for a photo. A DVD can also be recorded of each complete tour highlights.

Slide Wire Ride

Adventurous types would have the option of taking a safety ride down the emergency egress slide wire. Enterprising pad crews who found a safe and fast way to escape from any pad emergencies put these in place in the original pads. The cables led from the launch tower to a safe haven on the ground some distance away. The tourist would suit up, strap on, step off and enjoy a long slide to the ground. A TV transmitter camera in their helmet would beam their view back to a monitor up at the pad for the rest of the tourists to watch along.

Safety Concerns

Most people are not used to riding an open-air elevator up to 400 feet. Medical people will be available at each launch pad. People will be told before the ride starts that they can stop it at any time and ride a backup elevator back down. At each level of the launch pads, fencing will totally enclose the outside walls. An inner rail will be added that is a foot or two from this fence. The original rails at the wall will also still be included. Thus two rails plus a complete fence will prevent falls. Security will also be present to be called upon as required.


The blockhouses and launch control centers would be replicated in this project. Much of the Saturn launch control center has been removed. This could be replicated and the room rebuilt in full at the Saturn V Center. Ther Mercury Mission Control Center still exists, and will continue to be maintained. The blockhouse at Pad 26 would be restored to original configuration and the museum that is there would be relocated in a new facility.

Construction Phasing

There are five elements to the construction project: the monorail, the pads, the rockets, the towers and the domes. All five make it an exciting tourist destination. The domes alone are non-essential. These could be added later. Their primary benefit is the climate control. This helps bring tourists during summer and winter. They also help preserve the project against the salt corrosion environment and sunlight. Funding for the domes could be derived from operations later. The pads could also be omitted, with only the towers in place. But the pads really are essential to showing just what the original setup was, including the huge Pad 39 bases.

The first thing to do is rebuild Pad 14, Mercury Redstone. This will be relatively inexpensive because the base is still present, only requiring refurbishment. The tower and service gantry are gone. These were put out to sea. It is not likely that they can be retrieved and restored, but this option will be reviewed. The plans are available and a suitable replica can be rebuilt. This should be done first because it encapsulates the entire tour concept in a meaningful way early on. But mostly, this should be done first because the original Mercury astronauts who launched from there can be invited to preside over the opening ceremonies: Glenn, Carpenter, Schirra and Cooper.

The second project will be to preserve the Apollo 11 Launch Umbilical Tower to protect it against further erosion. Presently it is in an outdoor area at KSC, where it has rested since it was dismantled in 1983. If needed, a steel building or an inflatable stadium tent will be placed over the tower to provide an air-conditioned environment.

While the Apollo tower is being preserved, the other smaller pads can be completed. This will include the Redstone, Jupiter C and Gemini Titan pads. The Mercury astronauts can also come to commemmorate Shepard and Grissom at the Redstone pad opening. Gemini crews can come for a reunion to the Pad 19 grand opening.

Finally Pad 34, and Pad 39 can be completed. Pad 34 will feature a dedication ceremony attended by all the Apollo astronauts and program participants. A round platform below the rocket at the center of the pad will be added, where people can place flowers and other mementos to pay their respects. Pad 39 for Saturn and Shuttle will be done at a place and time that depends on the future of the Shuttle program. Either they will be elsewhere on KSC, or done in place on the current pads.

Tie-In to the Rest of KSC, Port Canaveral, Astronaut Hall of Fame, Space Camp and Titusville

The main attraction will be the launch pad tours, but the monorail tour could also make connections to the Saturn V Center, the VAB and LCC, the pad 39 viewing station. As mentioned before, another leg would go down through to Port Canaveral. Ideally the monorail would connect back to Titusville, to bring tourists in from hotels there. There would also be a stop at the Astronaut Hall of Fame and Space Camp, from where young astronauts would embark for their launches. The maglev monorail will be a prototype for a Florida-wide transportation system.


If any of the Cape Canaveral pads are to be rebuilt, the Air Force would have to agree and provide access. They and NASA would have to finally decide to declare the particular pad deactivated. Pad 5 is already so, the site of the Air Force Space Museum. The Mercury Atlas and Gemini Titan pads have also been left unused for nearly 40 years. So these could be rebuilt in place and would be a key part of the tour--as well as accurising the tower at Pad 5. A monorail route would be pretty secure, so should not be a security concern, but the passengers would have to be screened and protected just as on an airplane by going through a security checkpoint. If multiple pads are converted to exhibits, an issue is the appearance that the place is a museum more than an operational launch site. There is plenty of land though, and there are lots of active pads in use. Pad workers and Cape workers may also not appreciate tourists constantly streaming by in monorails while they work. Most of the industrial areas will be some distance from the monorails, and there are not a lot of pad workers at most times. Indeed it is hoped that retired and active pad workers will volunteer to man the exhibit pads and share their experiences as they wish.

Ideally this will be a learning environment for people, and a benefit to pad workers as well. Funds from the operation can go to preserving additional pads, but also if sufficient to upkeep on the operational pads. This project will only happen if it is a win-win scenario for all concerned.

There are only three main active pads at Cape Canaveral: Pad 17 for Deltas, Pad 36 for Atlas, and Pad 37 for future Delta 4. All the other pads have been dismantled, or otherwise abandoned. These are all candidates for restoration. Not all of them would require the monorail to stop, but to have them visible would add to the tour, and detailed tours could stop there.

Peace activists may object to making a monument out of missile sites, but these missiles did protect the world. The people that worked at this were protecting us all. When people see the might we had, and that yet we did not use it in anger, the peaceful intentions of America will also be evident.

Another issue is wear and tear on the launch pads created by lots of tourists. One solution is to build two copies of each launch tower. Perhaps one would be the original tower, with as much original material as possible. The other copy would be a replica, perhaps located back near the KSC Visitors Center for ease of access, or along the West bank of the Banana River.

All-Access Pass

While there will be guided tours, the option exists to stop at any pad for as long as one wishes. Not all the passengers will have to stay with each car. So it is best if the monorail pass be a "day pass" and one can get on and off in any order one wishes.

Architectural Design of New Buildings

All the architecture associated with the monorail tour and other new additions be extremely futuristic in appearance. This fits with how the space program was seen in the early days. It would be some fulfillment of that. Yet it should not be garish. The feeling should be that the future has arrived and also the hopes for the future are being expressed again. There should be competitions among architects to get the balance just right, between how we envision future buildings today and how future buildings were imagined in the 50's and 60's.


Here is a first approximation at the budget for this project.

Startup Expenses
5/6, Mercury Redstone 2 0.25 0.1
14, Mercury Atlas 10 1 0.5
19, Gemini Titan 10 1 0.5
34, Apollo Saturn 1B 40 2 1
39, Apollo Saturn V 80 10 2
Total 142 14.25 4.1

This is for the pads, towers and rockets only. The monorail has been budgeted for about 600 million. The domes would probably cost 200 million later. The whole thing is close to a billion when done. The monorail pays for itself as it expands to serve the rest of Florida (they are a separate entity). The core project will take about 30 years to pay off the startup from projected revenues. Ten years will pay for the pads, so maybe after about ten years of operation the domes could actually be added. Perhaps the smaller domes could be put in earlier. In addition, the project would raise more funds and use revenue to rebuild more of the Air Force pads on Canaveral.


If all funding were available, the pads would be built in parallel and complete tours could begin when done. This would take three to four years. With incremental funding beginning today, an opening schedule might look more like this:

Pad 14 Opens 2004

Pad 19 Opens 2005

Pad 5/6 Opens 2006

Pad 34 Opens 2007

Monorail In Place 2008

Pad 39 Saturn 2010

Pad 39 Shuttle 2012

Pad 5/6 Dome 2013

Pad 14 Dome 2014

Pad 19 Dome 2014

Pad 34 Dome 2015

Pad 39 Saturn Dome 2017

Pad 39 Shuttle Dome 2018

The schedule depends directly on funding. Things can be speeded up or slowed down as funding allows. This example schedule is about the order in which things could be expected to be completed.


This concept includes:

Rebuilding Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launch pads and towers

Moving Redstone, Atlas, Titan and Saturn rockets or replicas to the pads

Elevator rides to capsule levels on the towers

Conducting monorail tours that stop at each pad

Building domes over the pads to protect them and allow year-round comfortable tours.

Let’s begin. If you are interested in contributing to the concept phase, or help with starting up the project, please contact the author. Discussions are also open on the LUT group on Yahoo Groups online.

Fred Becker