NASA Special Agent Dan Oakland holds up a long-lost spacesuit recently uncovered  at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
A recent venture into a long-locked room at CCAFS uncovered interesting artifacts of a by-gone era: retired space suits from Americans who trained in the 1960s to be astronauts aboard an Air Force orbiting reconnaissance laboratory. Two security officers were doing a check of a facility at Launch Complex 5/6 blockhouse. Oakland and Security Manager Henry Butler, who is with Delaware North Parks and Resorts, the company that oversees the museum, discovered a locked room. Space suits from the Air Force’s planned Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program were found in the room.
Begun in 1964, the MOL program was an Air Force initiative that would have sent Air Force astronauts to a space station in a Gemini capsule. After spending a few weeks in orbit, the crew would undock and return to Earth. A test launch from Complex 40 on Nov. 30, 1966, of a MOL was conducted with an unmanned Gemini capsule. The MOL was constructed from tankage of a Titan II rocket. The operational MOL was planned to be launched into a polar orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Air Force abandoned the program in 1969, but the program produced a great deal of technological development, and three groups of military officers trained to be MOL astronauts. When the program was cancelled, seven of the younger astronauts were transferred to the agency’s human space flight program and went on to have standout careers. Among them were Robert Crippen, pilot of the first Space Shuttle mission, and Richard H. “Dick” Truly, who later became NASA Administrator.