Rocket Launch Base on Alcântara Peninsula
Destination São Luís, capital of the state of Maranhão.
Alcântara also hosts a rocket launch base. A museum exhibits the Brazilian space history.
On a Sunday morning, a catamaran carried us to the other side of Baía de São Marcos, a distance of more than fifty km. On the peninsula is the historical city of Santo Antônio de Alcântara, a large open air museum.
Alcântara is a peninsula northwest of São Luís Island, separated by Baia de São Marcos.
Rocket launch base Alcântara (CLA)
Unfortunately, I have NOT visited the rocket launch base on Alcântara Peninsula. This base is located at about five kilometers from the open air museum, but is partly accessible for tourists. As a compensation, I had visited an information center (it was more like a museum) about the rocket launch base. Therefore, I spent more than thirty minutes inside this center, and absorbed a lot about the Brazilian space history. The exhibition gave clear overview about the past, present and future of space adventures in Brazil.
Space science entered the Brazilian history in 1941 when the Ministry of Aviation was founded. Twenty years later, the Brazilian institute for Space Activities was created; eventually, it became the CNAE (Commissão Nacional das Atitivades Espaciais). In 1965, the rocket launch base in Barreira do Inferno (CLBI), near the city of Natal, was constructed. In 1967, the first Brazilian made rocket, the Sonda, was launched from that base. In 1979, the MECB (Missão Espacial Completa Brasileira; Complete Brazilian Space Mission) was founded, with the aim on the development of satellites, rockets and rocket launch installations. In 1983, the Centro de Lançamento de Alcântara (CLA) was founded: the Alcântara Launch Center.
Climax and anti-climax
More Brazilian institutes have been created: they focus on space science, and have developed various types of rockets. Both launch bases in Natal and Alcântara are still in operation. In 2003, a tragic accident killed 21 scientists due to an immense explosion. Three years later, Brazil had its first astronaut in space: Marcos Pontes.
The first launch base in Natal (state of Rio Grande do Norte) could no long expand because of the ever expanding city of Natal. Another location had to be found near the equator, for the most optimal climatological conditions. As an peninsula, Alcântara was the most convenient alternative, far from any major city. The base recently had been renovated, and now is capable for launches of Brazilian and international satellites. For example, China and Ukraine use the Alcântara launch base to have their satellites in orbit.
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom