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In a comment under the question If the Earth spun clockwise, how would that affect Space Exploration? I wrote:

Kennedy Space Center would be a lot closer to JPL; not sure what all happens with the Moon, if it doesn't also go the other way I don't think it would be where it is now.

to which was replied

KSC would still be in Florida, but on its west (Gulf of Mexico) coast.

I wrote KSP rather than Cape Canaveral because I was more confident that I wouldn't mipsell it, I probably should have written the latter. (See excellent answers to What is the difference between Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center?).

Question: At the time of the build up of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in the 1960's for the US space program, if the Earth rotated the opposite direction would the west coast of Florida have matched all of the constraints in terms of downrange safety for all inclinations the planners envisioned access to and provided ground tracks that allowed for tracking stations in friendly locations for the early crewed orbital missions, or would California have provided a location more suitable to their perceived needs for a space launch center at the time?


Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (with launch pads annotated including of course some built long after the 1960's). From NASA's PIA01918:

The John F. Kennedy Space Center, America's spaceport, is located along Florida's eastern shore on Cape Canaveral. Established as NASA's Launch Operations Center on July 1, 1962, the center has been the site of launching all U.S. human space flight missions, from the early days of Project Mercury to the space shuttle and the next generation of vehicles.

Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Source

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    $\begingroup$ How deep down this speculative rabbit hole do we need to go? What if JFK had been an astronaut instead of president? $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Apr 30 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Please do not speculate deeply! I think this constrains you to fact-based answers only: "...would the west coast of Florida have matched all of the constraints in terms of downrange safety for all inclinations the planners envisioned access to and provided ground tracks that allowed for tracking stations in friendly locations for the early crewed orbital missions..." $\endgroup$ – uhoh Apr 30 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ There were political as well as geographic considerations for choosing NASA sites. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Apr 30 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ space.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1541/6944 $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Apr 30 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that it was the Air Force, not NASA, making the original decision for the launch site. No doubt that the qualifications for such a site was highly classified, as it would have revealed U.S. missile capabilities. Such information might not be declassified even today. $\endgroup$ – DrSheldon Apr 30 at 2:06
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Speculation: Sanibel Island, Florida fits the bill.

Like Cape Canaveral, it is on an island on the Florida coast, close enough to be reached by bridges. Its latitude is 2 degrees south of Canaveral (26°26′23″N versus 28°29′20″N), so actually slightly better. It's bigger in area than Canaveral (86 km$^2$ versus 5 km$^2$); plenty of room for the military, NASA, plus a nature preserve.

Sanibel Island

According to Wikipedia, it was sparsely populated until a bridge to the mainland was built in 1963:

Legendary pirates' dens aside, the first modern settlement on Sanibel (then spelled "Sanybel") was established by the Florida Peninsular Land Company in 1832. The colony never took off, and was abandoned by 1849. It was this first group that initially petitioned for a lighthouse on the island. The island was re-populated after the implementation of the Homestead Act in 1862, and again a lighthouse was petitioned. Construction on the Sanibel Island Lighthouse was completed in 1884, but the community remained small. In May 1963 a causeway linking Sanibel and Captiva to the mainland was opened, resulting in an explosion of growth.

The opposite side of the Gulf of Mexico is Brownsville, Texas (25°55′49″N). The distance between the two are 994 mi (1600 km). Although farther north, New Orleans is closer at 544 mi (875 km).

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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: If you don't like this answer, I suppose you could help me earn my first "Peer Pressure" badge: "Delete own post with score of -3 or lower" $\endgroup$ – DrSheldon Apr 30 at 2:40
  • $\begingroup$ I've since retracted my down vote but haven't up voted yet since I feel constraints in terms of downrange safety and ground tracks haven't been addressed here. I'd modified the title to match the body of the question per request but the question itself is the same. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Apr 30 at 16:36

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