It was a day in March and I got up early to drive the long drive to Wallops Island, Virginia. It was a cool but sunny day and the drive was easy. NASA officials met me there and we were joined by photographer Ron Blunt to spend a day at the launch pad and assembly facility to shoot a story for Washingtonian. It was fascinating. The launch pad that was involved in last night's explosion is shown immediately below. It does not look like a conventional launch pad. There is no gantry. It's more of a hole in the ground supported by an elaborate concrete launch mechanism. Above and below are photos inside the assembly building, Ron and me, with Antares rockets behind and beside us. They are brought from Ukraine and repurposed, workers come from there, too, which is why a lot of the signage is in two languages.
Back in the day I covered launches at the Cape Kennedy/Canaveral in Florida for the wires and then Time magazine, including the troubled Apollo 13. Everything was huge -- rockets, the Vehicular Assembly Building. Wallops is boutique-sized, to fit the modern era of more un-manned space business. But note also in the photo below, on the horizon, an old-school gantry.