Preserving the History of Space Exploration, One Site at a Time

MISSILE FUEL, Atlas Launch Complex 13, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Photo by Roland Miller.

MISSILE FUEL, Atlas Launch Complex 13, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Photo by Roland Miller.

When photographer Roland Miller first visited the Gemini Launch Complex on Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in 1988, he immediately knew he wanted to photograph it. “The rapidly decaying structures coupled with the harsh coastal environment made it clear that this site would not last for long,” he says.

So began an ongoing photography project he calls “Abandoned in Place,” dedicated to documenting and preserving the histories of early space launch and research facilities across the U.S. — and the people who run them. Both informative and striking, the images portray rusting control boards, abandoned lunar modules, and discarded work suits in an eerily beautiful way.

Launch Ring, Launch Complex 34, Apollo Saturn, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Photo by Roland Miller.

Launch Ring, Launch Complex 34, Apollo Saturn, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Photo by Roland Miller.

In 2014, Miller launched a Kickstarter project to help create a book of these photographs through the University of New Mexico Press. “Normally, authors write grants, get sponsors, or even use their personal funds to finance their projects,” he says. “I felt that a Kickstarter project would be popular with this topic — space history — and I was right!” The project also caught the eye of Business Insider — and once the book was published in 2016, The New York Times and The National Trust for Historic Preservation featured Miller’s photographs. 

Miller credits his success to his community of supporters and fellow space historians: “None of us work in a vacuum. It takes a team and a community to accomplish any worthwhile endeavor.” 

Launch Pad and Gantry with Hermes A-1 Rocket, V2 Launch Complex 33, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Photo by Roland Miller.

Launch Pad and Gantry with Hermes A-1 Rocket, V2 Launch Complex 33, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Photo by Roland Miller.