October 2017 - Between the Pages: Abandoned in Place
This well-produced coffee-table book is filled with starkly beautiful photographs that evoke bittersweet memories contrasting America’s “glory days” of space exploration with the abandoned remnants of infrastructure that made them possible half a century or more ago. The oversize book fills the reader’s lap with words and with images that surpass words.
Rolland Miller is a photographer and a dedicated space buff. As a child during the 1960s, he was fascinated by science-fiction-turned-
reality, and as an adult, he says he was “hooked” when he saw his first rocket launch in 1984. A few years later, when he was working at Cape Canaveral, he was struck by the “ruins of early space flight” and committed himself to documenting them.
The book’s subtitle, Preserving America’s Space History, apparently refers to preservation through photographs because neither NASA nor the US Air Force is preserving these structures physically. The photos show extensive rust, peeling paint, cracks, and other signs of deterioration. Structures that would be too difficult or costly to tear down have simply been “abandoned in place.”
Another vision of “preserving America’s space history” is an essay contributed by Beth Laura O’Leary, a professor emerita of anthropology at New Mexico State University. She is a leader in the effort to protect manmade objects on celestial bodies including the Moon and Mars. These include items like lunar module descent stages, debris from impact probes, footprints, and lunar rover tire tracks.
O’Leary’s essay is one of six that augment Miller’s text and photographs. In another, space shuttle astronaut Pamela Melroy describes her emotional attachment to Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 34, where the Apollo 1 astronauts perished in a fire during a launch simulation. “For me, Pad 34 is and always will be a completely unique place in the heart of a bustling spaceport—a quiet place to think and a spiritual place to meditate,” she writes. “I feel the past there, but very much as a part of the present. I feel the spirit of my heroes reaching across time….”