Did NASA consider hurricane hits when establishing a rocket launch site at Cape Canaveral?

That’s a question many of us hear — and a myth that many like to tell — here at the Cape. A neighbor of ours did some research on the matter and here’s what he learned. Sharing it with you on this Sunday morning because it’s NOT politics. Imagine that!

Recent posts have indicated that NASA chose Cape Canaveral as the site for the Kennedy Space Center because NASA research indicated that the Cape is never likely to be struck with a direct hit by tropical storms and hurricanes. I have heard this local “myth” for years and just assumed it was true.

After Hurricane Ian passed over us, I decided to do my own research with regards to this “myth”. It did not take very long for me to debunk this “myth”. NASA, of course, considered weather effects as part of their research when evaluating possible sites for the location of the new space center. But it turns out that weather was not really much of a factor in the decision process.

I have copied and pasted articles below from several of the online sites that I visited during my research. There are many sites with data that tell the story of Cape Canaveral, the search for a new Space Center location and the impact of hurricanes on Cape Canaveral and the Space Coast. I encourage you to do your own research and be sure to review the ones below.

The data shows that on average, Cape Canaveral is struck or brushed every 1.97 years. On average, Cape Canaveral is affected by a major hurricane hit every 25 years. The worst example I could find was from a hurricane on 24 August 1885 where the eye was 20 miles off shore but close enough that it created a 10 foot storm surge that rolled over the entire Cape and destroyed pretty much anything that was standing at the time.

Thankfully, there was not much here in 1885. But you can imagine what might happen if that storm struck the Cape now. Two pictures above show two hurricane tracks (one in August 1893 and one in October 1893) where the eye was very close to the Cape (within a couple miles). Please take a look at the information below.

https://www.visitspacecoast.com/blog-post/why-is-cape-canaveral-americas-launch-spot

Why is Cape Canaveral America’s Launch Spot? 3…2…1…and we have lift off. A countdown and those words signal the next round of heavy equipment defying gravity with two minutes of hold-your-breath, fingers crossed transitions where electric and mechanical engineering prove a successful launch. This experience that literally shakes, rattles, and rolls through the area while giving onlookers a show as it shoots through the sky and up through the Earth’s atmosphere is an incredible opportunity that people from all over the world make trips to the Florida’s “Space Coast” for and locals never tire of seeing.

Rocket and Space Shuttle launches have been a common occurrence for over 60 years. So why was this area chosen, more specifically Cape Canaveral, as America’s launch spot?

Although Cape Canaveral wasn’t the first place where rockets were initially launched, it became quickly apparent that finding a spot that could grow alongside of technological advances was key. Bumper rockets were first tested in New Mexico, but after six test launches, it was decided that a new location was needed. And so the hunt began to find a more suitable place to develop the ever-growing missile launch program.

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), a military base utilized by both the Navy and Airforce for defense and strategic operations has played a key role in the development of the space program and missile testing in the United States. When this area was being looked at as a potential site, the fact that there was already an infrastructure in place, roads specifically, made Cape Canaveral an easy choice to move the launch program to.

Another reason why Cape Canaveral was appealing was the close proximity to the equator, as it lies 28 degrees latitude above. Why is this important? “As the Earth rotates on its axis, it creates positive kinetic energy.” (1) The closer to the equator, the greater the kinetic energy is, which means a rocket launching from Cape Canaveral has to use 0.3 percent less energy. From a fuel efficiency and expense perspective, with the amount of energy needed to launch an object, that 0.3 percent savings goes a long way.

Cape Canaveral was also chosen because of how close it is to the Atlantic Ocean. Since the Earth rotates eastward, not only would the object being launched get a nice boost from the Earth’s spin, the object would have the advantage of flying over the ocean, minimizing the risk of having any debris dropping or exploding near people.

What about the weather?

Since Florida is considered a tropical state that can experience severe thunderstorms, why take the risk of bad weather or even hurricanes damaging very expensive equipment? First off, bad weather can happen anywhere. On the west coast, specifically California, you run into earthquake issues; the Midwest is tornado alley. But, wondering if Cape Canaveral was still the ideal spot was definitely a question that needed to be answered. After weighing all the pros and cons, the energy savings from being close to the equator and the boost from the Earth’s easterly rotation, the close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, and an infrastructure already in place with the military base, the weather risks paled in comparison to what the area offered overall.

Today, protection measures have been taken to mitigate, as best as possibly, any potential weather-related hazards. Little did those who made the decision to choose Cape Canaveral as “America’s Launch Spot” know, this small town, with its quaint, old Florida feel, has now become a favorite place for visitors to travel to and for others to flock here to call this place home all because of how much space technology and the history here never seems to get old.

Why is Cape Canaveral America’s Launch Spot?

visitspacecoast.com

ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

As a former Public Affairs Officer with NASA / KSC during my career, I know for certain that the result of Daniel Gilbert’s research is verifiably true. The “Hurricanes won’t hit here” myth is just that. A myth. And those who point out that we’ve not sustained a direct hit for decades discount the fact that we’ve been tremendously fortunate — it’s a spin of the wheel. A direct hit could and would reconfigure the barrier islands such they’d be unrecognizable. It will happen. Just a question of when. Don’t fall into the trap that “it won’t happen here.” You and I might not live long enough to see the day come, but it’s in the future. And may God help those who are caught in it. — RadioPatriot

By Radiopatriot

Retired Talk Radio Host, Retired TV reporter/anchor, Retired Aerospace Public Relations Mgr, Retired Newspaper Columnist, Political Activist Twitter.com/RadioPatriot * Telegram/Radiopatriot * Telegram/Andrea Shea King Gettr/radiopatriot * TRUTHsocial/Radiopatriot

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