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Wallops Island

Wallops Island (or, more properly, "Wallops Flight Facility") is probably best remembered for its role in testing the launch escape system for Project Mercury: Little Joe boosters launched Mercury boilerplates and spacecraft under a variety of conditions to validate the escape rocket.

Although operated under the auspices of Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops has its own web site, which includes a historical overview as well as a page for its visitor center. For even more information about Wallops, see Wallops Station and the creation of an American Space Program (NASA SP-4311).

We happened to visit Wallops Island in late June, and the mosquito population was, shall we say, "very healthy." They weren't too bad if you stayed on the sidewalks and walkways, but as soon as you went onto the grass, they went into full attack mode. I was constantly being bitten while photographing the Little Joe; at one point I looked down and saw about 20 mosquitoes on my knee.

Luckily, these mosquitoes were some sort of wimpy, east-coast insects: When bitten by a proper Wisconsin mosquito (which is the size of small bird), the bite will swell up and cause a welt and itch for a day or two. The mosquitoes on Wallops were puny light-weights; if I looked closely I could see where I'd sustained a bite, but it didn't swell up or really itch. Also, the Wallops Island mosquitoes aren't as smart as Wisconsin mosquitoes, for the Wisconsin variety can recognize when a person is wearing insect repellent and will stay away, but their Wallops Island cousins didn't seem to understand that when a person was wearing bug spray, that person was off limits.

The visitor center itself is fairly small and has a relatively small number of displays devoted to the 1960s manned space program, but since it has one of only two remaining Little Joe boosters, Wallops Island was a "must see" for me.

Aerial view.

 
On the Road
On the Road
Wallops Island
Wallops Island
Sounding Rockets
Sounding Rockets
Little Joe
Little Joe
Schweickart's Skylab Training Suit
Schweickart's Skylab Training Suit
Fly-By
Fly-By