Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Monday 5 June 2023 Dublin: 18°C
# The final frontier
Check out these incredible pictures of the ruins of America's Space Race
Photographer and academic Roland Miller has travelled across America capturing images of the remnants of an international race long forgotten.

SCATTERED AROUND THE US are the remnants of a space race from half a century ago.

Before they fell completely into disarray, Roland Miller decided to capture the ruins on camera.

In his book “Abandoned in Place” (available at the University of New Mexico Press and Amazon), Miller gives a glimpse of life in the areas left over from the missions that took us to the moon.

Here are some of the images featured in his book:

Miller’s interest started in the early ’90s when he was working at a college near Cape Canaveral. An environmental engineer who wanted Miller to help dispose of some photography chemicals showed him Complex 19, which launched the Gemini missions, NASA’s second round of manned spaceflight projects. “It was immediately clear to me that I wanted to photograph it,” Miller told Business Insider.

2 Roland Miller Roland Miller

Source: NASA

Although it wasn’t easy getting permission to run around on deactivated bases on White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Miller was persistent. “It was obvious that it was already pretty badly decayed and wouldn’t be there forever,” he said.

3 Roland Miller V2 Launch Site with Hermes A-1 Rocket, Launch Complex 33 Gantry, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico 2006 Roland Miller

Miller prefers to take his photos right when the sun is coming up. That lighting was particularly stunning at Cape Canaveral, where, he said: “If the Atlantic Ocean is calm enough, it’s almost like you have two suns.”

4 Roland Miller Rocket Thrust Mounts, Gemini Titan Complex 19, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, 1991 Roland Miller

Miller, now dean of communication arts, humanities, and fine arts at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, went all over the country to get his photos, like this one of the pressure gauge panel in Santa Susana in Southern California.

5 Roland Miller Pressure Gauge Panel, Apollo Saturn V F1 Engine Test Stand, Boeing Facility, Santa Susana, California, 1998 Roland Miller

The title of his book comes from the civil-engineering term “abandon in place”, which means the structure is no longer maintained. The term is stencilled on a number of buildings on Cape Canaveral, including Complex 34, site of the deadly Apollo 1 fire.

6 Roland Miller Apollo Saturn Complex 34, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, 1992 Roland Miller

Source: NASA

The structures remain largely intact because they were built to withstand burning rocket fuel. “One engineer told me that with one kind of structure they’d need to develop an entirely new method of demolition to destroy them,” Miller said.

7 Roland Miller Catacombs, Apollo Saturn V F1 Engine Test Stand, Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1998 Roland Miller

But the signs of age on the metal structures shows. This close-up of a NASA logo from the Mercury Mission Control – the first manned spaceflight program – is striped with deteriorating paint and water damage.

8 Roland Miller NASA Logo, Mercury Mission Control, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida 2009 Roland Miller

Source: NASA

Other areas show their age with foliage creeping over the structures.

9 Roland Miller Cable Way, Apollo Saturn Launch Complex 34, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, 2000 Roland Miller

The project and its title, “Abandoned In Place”, Miller said is: “an obvious metaphor for the loss of interest in the Apollo program after the first lunar landings and also for stepping back from what I like to refer to as extra-orbital space exploration.”

10 Roland Miller Clean Room Winch, Universal Environmental Shelter, Titan Complex 40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, 2006 Roland Miller

His mission with the book is to get people as interested in space exploration as they were back in the 1960s. He’d love to see plans to go back to the moon, or Mars.

11 Roland Miller Blast Door, Apollo Saturn Complex 37B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, 1991 Roland Miller

“I hope we’ll get back to the moon in my lifetime.”

Published with permission from
Business Insider
Your Voice
Readers Comments