Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations|
Press, VIPs, Tourists, Dependents
Elaborate plans for the reception of guests paid off both at the launch of Apollo 4 and at the 13 subsequent Apollo launches. Five days before the launch, the Office of Public Affairs had opened a news center on the 10th floor of the Cape Royal Building in Cocoa Beach. The news center issued badges to representatives of industry and the news media, including TV technicians, for access to the space center. Bus tours of the entire center were conducted twice daily for reporters and photographers. Starting twelve hours before launch time, three NASA buses operated a shuttle service every half hour between the Cape Royal and the LC-39 press site. The last bus departed one hour before launch time, but by then most media personnel were in their seats on a "first-come, first-served" basis. Southern Bell installed 360 telephones at the press site, with the news organizations paying individually for service. A mobile food service unit supplied hot snacks.35
The news center held status briefings on the mission twice daily preceding the launch. The day before the launch, there were two press briefings at launch complex 39, followed by a tour of pad A. The afternoon mission briefing took place at the news center itself. John W. King, chief of the Public Information Branch, provided countdown commentary, starting five hours before liftoff. Loudspeakers carried this commentary to the press site at LC-39, the VIP site on the opposite side of the vehicle assembly building, the visitors information center, the KSC news center, all cafeterias throughout KSC, and the main buildings in the industrial area. The Manned Space Center in Houston took over the commentary after liftoff.
The Cape Royal auditorium was available to contractors for presentations at times not in conflict with NASA requirements. Contractors' representatives could schedule such events in advance with the approval of the KSC news center manager. The contractors also had space for displays and a liaison desk for their public relations representatives.
At least equally important, but more complicated than preparations for representatives of the media and the contractors, was the task of caring for the dignitaries who would descend on the area as long as viewing an Apollo launch would be a socially and politically prestigious event. NASA Headquarters had its own list of invitees, as did the three centers (Kennedy, Marshall, and Houston). Naturally many names were duplicated on the lists. The centers settled the overlapping among themselves, and each center director invited his guests personally. The distinguished visitors viewed the launch from uncovered bleachers northwest of the assembly building, which could accommodate l,000 guests.
Protocol representatives from NASA Headquarters, KSC, Marshall, and the Air Force Eastern Test Range set up a joint protocol center at the Sheraton Cape Colony Inn in Cocoa Beach, five days before liftoff. With the usual foresight, KSC had a contingency plan that did not have to be used on Apollo 4. In case of postponement or delay of a launch, the guests automatically had a valid invitation for the rescheduled time. In the meantime, the Protocol Office would provide further tours of the Kennedy Space Center until launch. NASA and contractor employees at KSC could view the Apollo 4 mission from a convenient area near their place of duty. Their dependents watched from Avenue E in the industrial area, south of the Apollo training facility. The Security Office provided badges, car passes, and instructions five days before the launch. Some contractors and range organizations chartered buses to bring dependents to the viewing site. Throughout all viewing areas, KSC provided emergency first aid and ambulance service. Security handled parking of vehicles and controlled traffic with an ease that was to grow with each launch.36