Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Fremont Rocket

Fremont Rocket

So here's a photo of Seattle's "Fremont Rocket", in the Fremont neighborhood not far from the Troll, the Lenin Statue, and Seattle's little Fremont Bridge (which is positively puny compared to ours). Fremont as a whole kind of grabs you by the lapel and demands you acknowledge its infinite quirkiness. There are even signs from the neighborhood chamber of commerce, explaining just how awesomely quirky and alternative everyone and everything is:

Fremont Rocket

I will allow that Fremont (and Seattle as a whole) has an excellent marketing operation, way more slick than anything Portland could ever dream of. It's enough to make you forget this is the same city that gave the world Clippy and Kenny G.

As the story goes, this is supposedly a real, live government-surplus rocket, rescued from the facade of a defunct government surplus store. That's not quite true; it's actually a tail boom from a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar, a twin-tailed USAF cargo plane of the 1950s, which the old surplus store had fashioned into a sort of cartoon rocketship. It would obviously be cooler if it was a real rocket, but it's not. If you want to see an actual real rocket, there are various places around the country with rockets on display. I think Seattle's Museum of Flight may have a few, but I haven't been there in many years. Rocket launches are fun too, if you ever get a chance to watch one in person.

In any case, there is sort of a space connection here. The C-119 aircraft was used for many years for midair recovery of film capsules ejected by Corona spy satellites. Seriously, that's what they used to do. Electronic camera sensors weren't advanced enough at the time, so a spy satellite would take a batch of film photos, and return them by dropping a recovery capsule with the film inside. A plane would snag the capsule's parachute in midair and reel it in, instead of having it land or splashdown somewhere where the Rooskies might find it first. The early spy satellites were publicly called "Discoverer", which was supposedly just an Air Force engineering test and research program. "Discoverer 14" was the first successful recovery, which resulted in some fun vintage newsreel footage:

No comments :