CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – Astronauts preparing to launch into space for the better part of the last four decades have had a welcome refuge – the astronaut beach house. This small two-level structure it is often missed by those that are ferried past it to the nearby launch pads. The astronaut beach house is — for those set to thunder into orbit – a vital place to collect their thoughts before they make history. Let’s take a look inside, as three astronauts provide Universe Today with a guided tour of this historic and storied house.
Robert C. Springer flew into space on space shuttle Discovery on STS-29 and on Atlantis for a Department of Defense mission on STS-38. For him, the beach house provided astronauts with a refuge from the hectic atmosphere that comes with preparing to launch to orbit. Springer retired from NASA and the United States Marine Corps in 1990. Afterward he worked for the Boeing Company as director of quality systems, Integrated Defense Systems. Springer views the beach house as a place for one to catch their breath – before the big day.
Sam T. Durrance is similar to both Springer in that he flew to orbit twice. His first mission was STS-35 aboard the space shuttle Columbia and his second was STS-67 on Endeavour. Durrance was a payload specialist on both of his two flights; this role required him to focus on each mission’s specific payload. Durrance is currently employed by the Florida Institute of Technology located in Melbourne, Florida, where he serves as a professor in the Department of Physics and Space Sciences.
Nicole P. Stott started out as a operations engineer at KSC in one of NASA’s Orbiter Processing Facilities. Stott supported human space flight endeavors in numerous roles at KSC before she moved to Johnson Space Center in 1998. She was selected for astronaut training two years later. Stott flew to the International Space Station on STS-128 where she stayed for 91 days before returning to Earth with the crew of STS-129. She would return to the ISS as a member of the STS-133 crew.
Stott came to agency later than Springer and Durrance and therefore her view is somewhat different. For her, the house served to both remind and include her in the area’s rich history.
“It’s a special place, you feel like your part of something here,” said Stott as she looked out from the beach house’s deck toward the ocean. “There is so much history here that while you know that when you’re here, it’s for an event that you’re participating in, but you’re aware that there is a lot that has gone on before you as well.”