James B. Edson, Technical Consultant - 1946
There was Venus, up and blazing in the velvet desert night,
And the distant crystal glitter of the launch pad lights,
And the slender gleaming needle of the rocket standing there,
With its whisp of frosty vapor in the cool, still air.
There was Little Brighteyes waiting with a soft and eager whine,
As we heard the station chockoff on the hard wire line;
As we heard the Launch Director call the name of Station Star,
And he asked us, “Are you Ready?”, and we answered him, “We are.”
Softly then the first faint dawnglow welled above the mountain rim,
Silver fringed the night’s black velvet, and the eastern stars grew dim,
As we, waiting, heard the pulsebeats coming off the timing line,
As we counted down the seconds until blastoff time.
There it Was! Ignition! Liftoff! And a shining spear of light,
Rose above the darkling desert, thrusting thru the fading light.
Then like distant organ music, deep and strong, the jetsong came,
Filled that vast sky-roofed cathedral with the anthem of the flame.
Up and out our nightbird mounted, reaching eager for the void,
And the tracker, struck with wonder, saw her flaming wings deployed;
Saw those vast and glowing pinions spread for flight across the deep.
Out and far, beyond the limits of a world still sunk in sleep.
Dream of men, made up in metal and flame-hurled beyond the sky,
But her fledgeling wings must falter, and we knew that she must die.
So it was. Her slim white body, when her rocket burn was done,
Rose on thru the empty darkness till she saw the rising sun.
We, Earthbound and deep in shadow; we saw her shining there,
Like a dawning-star of promise; bright, and high, and fair.
For half a hundred heartbeats she glowed with splendid light.
Than, as man and all his creatures must, she faded into night.
Now, We’ve tracked a hundred mightier jets beyond the azure sky,
And a swarm of circling satellites as they went wheeling by,
And we were few, and we grow grey, and some of us are gone,
But our dream still lies beyond the skies,
And our hearts are bold like that bird of old,
That flew to meet the dawn.
Rockets, missiles, and the technology behind their development and testing are only as good as the people who work on and study them. The ideas for overcoming the challenges of testing and observing volatile, high-speed vehicles like the V-2 were so new and inspiring to the pioneer scientists at WSMR that some wrote poems about their experience like the one here. While hundreds of people made important and lasting contributions to the missions of WSMR, a few stand out for their role in optical instrumentation development.