Protecting the Space Shuttle

A Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral crew aboard a 45-foot response boat protects the waters near Cape Canaveral, Fla., the morning of the launch. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

A Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral crew aboard a 45-foot response boat protects the waters near Cape Canaveral, Fla. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The return of the Space Shuttle Atlantis from its historic final voyage this morning brings a bitter sweet moment as the nation reflects back on those famous words spoken by astronaut Neil Armstrong, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

For the men and women stationed at Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral, Fla., the shuttle’s return is the end of more than 30 years of support for the space shuttle program.

Since the inception of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration space shuttle program, Coast Guard active, reserve and auxiliary members have launched into action to ensure the safety and security of both the shuttle ground crews and bystanders wanting to catch a glimpse of the shuttle.

During every launch, Station Port Canaveral members took to the waters surrounding the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral to keep a sharp lookout for potential security risks while at the same time patrolling the area and talking with boaters about safety and areas to avoid.

The Coast Guard has an array of different roles during each shuttle mission; however the entire operation is not possible without the cooperation and support of local, state and federal partners.

The crew of a Coast Guard Station Canaveral 45-foot response boat off the coast of Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral prior to the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

A Coast Guard Station Canaveral 45-foot response boat crew patrols off the coast of Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral prior to the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“The interagency work has been a critical part of every evolution,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Christian, a maritime enforcement specialist stationed at Port Canaveral. “We receive immeasurable amounts of support from all of the agencies involved.”

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Brevard Country Sherriff’s Office, NASA security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection all assisted in the maritime security mission, with a combination of 30 assets from each of these agencies.

“Every shuttle mission is unique,” said Chief Warrant Officer James Dubea, Station Port Canaveral’s commanding officer. “Reservists and Coast Guard auxiliary play a major role in the security zone enforcement and logistics. Without their knowledge and dedication, the launch missions would have been much more challenging to complete.”

No one better embodies the commitment the Coast Guard has with NASA and the space shuttle program than Coast Guard Auxiliarist James Smith who has participated in all 135 shuttle launches over the past three decades.

“I’ve worked every one of them,” Smith told a Florida Today reporter in a recent article. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do, being a part of it all these years.”

As the station crewmembers watched the final takeoff of Shuttle Atlantis on July 8, and it’s return today, they were a front-row witness to a historical moment and a part of a unique Coast Guard mission.

“It’s a sight that holds your attention no matter how many times you’ve seen it,” added Christian, who has participated in 12 shuttle launches since 2008. “The history associated with the program is a national treasure. All of my memories rapidly flashed through my head as the final shuttle was dancing in and out of sight through the clouds and into the great open void.”

Even though the NASA’s space shuttle program has officially ended, the partnership between NASA and the Coast Guard will continue. NASA scientists are currently aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a 420-foot polar icebreaker homeported in Seattle, for Operation ICESCAPE. Healy crewmembers and NASA scientists are investigating the impacts of climate change on the ecology in the Arctic, on their way to new discoveries right here on Earth.

A Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral crewmember takes a photo the morning of the launch. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

A Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral crewmember takes a photo as he keeps a close eye on the launch pad. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

 

Tags: , , , , ,


  • Rob Wyman

    Thanks for watching our back all these years, Coast Guard! I know you’ll be there for us again once we resume the “what’s next” missions to deep space!
    (USCG retired; currently employed by NASA; love you both!)

  • Dana Lewis

    A very long mission for the Coast Guard. Participated in the security zones for Gemini X, XI, and XII in 1966. The old 40 footers and the CGC Point Roberts from Mayport was the large cutter on scene.

    The old CG Station at Port Canaveral was on the southside of the channel near the jetties. Even the radio watch had the best seat in the house.

  • Richard Bruce

    I had the honor of patrolling the seventh launching in 1983 as a 1/C Cadet aboard Point Roberts out of Mayport. Cutter Point Charles, of Cape Canveral, shared patrol duties. We brought along a LCdr D7 to witness the launch. Unfortuntely, she was not use to a 82ft and quickly headed to the rail. Best part of the patrol was the night before with calm seas, cool weather and a well lit space shuttle.

  • J. Tarr, USCG Ret.

    Outstanding Job! I was at Station Port Canaveral, attached to the CGC Reliance (WMEC-615) for the first “Night” launch in 1983. I climbed the radio antenna, & watched night turn to DAY for the first time! The Shuttle Support team was hitting on all cylinders then, and doing the same in 2001, when I retired off the CGC Vigilant (WMEC-617)at Station Port Canaveral! My fellow Shipmate, Senior Chief Mark Carstens is/was a major player on the close of the Coast Guard Shuttle Security Team… GREAT JOB SHIPMATES!!!

  • Barlow Jimmy

    From Cape Canveral north to Oak Hill,FL I would call the best places to fish on Earth. Ok how about north of the Florida Keys, honestly.

  • Nathan Swails

    I would like to get my hands on the original photos of the two featuring the RB-M. Since I’m at the PRO, these would make a nice addition to our already vast collection. I have one with a shuttle launch in the background if anyone’s interested. Unless someone knows where they’re at off hand, I suppose I’ll get a hold of PA2 directly if I don’t hear anything back in a while.

  • LT Connie Braesch

    Nathan, thank-you for reading the Coast Guard Compass. One picture is available in the Coast Guard Visual Information Gallery, and we are working to upload the other photos in higher resolution. To get to CGVI, go to the uscg.mil homepage and click on “Imagery” in the top navigation bar. Then search for “space shuttle.” All images can be used as long as they are not edited and credit is given to the photographer.

    Regards,
    Lt. Connie Braesch
    Coast Guard public affairs