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THE SMALLER MISSILES

Most of the launch activity , in the early days, was with Guided Missiles, like the Snark and the Matador. These were actually Jet Airplanes, but were unmanned and were under ground control. They were both launched horizontally and their take off was jet assisted.

The Matador was smaller than a Jet Trainer and the Snark was quite a bit larger. The Matador was expendable and no effort was made to recover any of them. However, several attempts were made to bring a Snark back onto the three mile long, Skid Strip. That was, usually, quite a show. The trick was to keep the Snark out over the ocean until it only had fuel enough left to reach the Skid Strip, but retain enough so that it could get there. The aircraft was not equipped with wheels, so I guess that the idea was to let it skid to a stop and then gather up anything that was salvageable. That Skid Strip started about a half mile inland from the beach, and needless to say, there were quite a few Snarks that came up short.

One day as I was driving along Mission Control Road, which ran parallel with the Strip and about a half mile away from it, I saw a Snark that was coming in for, what looked like, a perfect landing. That was going to be something new so I stopped to watch it. As the plane came in over the end of the Strip it's speed dropped off enough to allow the rear end, which was mostly jet engine, to strike the hard surface and the body broke in two, just aft of the wing. The forward part, being relieved of the major part of the weight, took off in full flight with no control. It went completely over the Cape and landed in the Banana River.

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