the Little Things That Bug Me
By Kent Shocknek
It’s the little things that bug me: you wanna know my
pet peeve, and how it can make you a couple of bucks in a
bet at the bar?
It’s all about that place, from which they launch the space
shuttle. You know the place, right? It’s Cape Canaveral. Wrong.
The space shuttle launches from Kennedy Space Center. Yup,
everybody in the world gets it wrong.
First, the geography. The Kennedy Space Center is located
on an “island, “ separated from mainland Florida, by a salt-water
river. It’s called Merritt Island; a little chunk (actually,
a pretty good sized chunk) of land that’s mostly taken up
by a wildlife refuge.
Cape Canaveral is a point of land that juts out into the Atlantic
Ocean, about 10 miles south of KSC. Don’t believe me: bet
me, and then look on a map. They are not the “same thing.”
So why do all news service datelines and network reporters
and producers get it wrong?
Simple: back in the early days of the space program, the US
did launch missiles and rockets from the Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station, there on Florida’s east coast. Even in the
early days of manned flight. But then we started pushing up
the bigger stuff, and we needed a bigger facility.
Solution: move up the coast (away from the Cape), take over
part of the refuge, and launch really big rockets (all the
moon shots and shuttles). All, blasting off from THE KENNEDY
The trouble is, the whole world was used to seeing reports
from “Cape Canaveral.” And to complicate things, the US still
does launch unmanned rockets from the Cape—all those things
that keep going to mars, or into earth-orbit, or wherever.
It drives the locals nuts. I used to live on Merritt Island
and report from the Space Center. Residents are proud to call
it “theirs.” Proudest of all, are the good folks of Titusville,
county seat of the county where both KSC and Cape Canaveral
are located, and the city that’s actually closest to the Center.
Man, do Titusvillians hate people who say shuttle launches
happen at the Cape. I asked respected space reporters Roy
Neal of NBC and the late Jules Bergman of ABC why they kept
saying “Cape Canaveral.” Basically, they said “It’s what people
are used to.” Yea, well, earlier groups were used to the idea
the world was flat. So every time there’s a shuttle launch,
I tell the writer and the chyron guy “It’s not Cape Canaveral,
it’s the Kennedy Space Center.” And they look at me like I’m
crazy. Maybe I am. Because I keep pushing for us to say it
right, knowing that the rest of the world will never come
around. I wouldn’t mind so much, but I’ve never even made
one of those bets at the bar. A couple of diet cokes and I’m
ready to move on.
About the Author
KENT SHOCKNEK , of KCBS-TV, started reporting from the Kennedy
Space Center AND Cape Canaveral before the first space shuttle
launch. He has covered more than 70 shuttle launches and landings,
including the Challenger mission, from the moment of lift-off.