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Ozzie Osband, space launch icon and force behind Brevard's 321 area code, has died

An image of Ozzie Osband at Space View Park in Titusville, Florida.
Brendan Byrne
Ozzie Osband at Space View Park in Titusville, Florida during an interview with WMFE in 2022. For decades, Osband hosted public launch viewings from the park.

When it comes to rocket launches, there are a few constants: There will be delays, and Titusville's Ozzie Osband will be out at Space View Park hosting a watch party.

But those watch parties have come to an end. The American Space Museum announced Ozzie Osband died Sunday.

A self-proclaimed space cadet, Osband hosted public viewing parties at the Brevard park just a few miles away from the launch pads. Osband was hard to miss with his poofy white hair and beard, posted up next to a light pole with an amplifier and a microphone — ready to brief the spectators who had come out to see a launch and count them down to liftoff.

Osband arrived in Florida in 1987 and since then, rarely missed a launch, providing newcomers and long-time space fans alike with education and enthusiasm. He welcomed tourists from across the country and globe, sharing his enjoyment of all things space with the spectators. Then, just before launch, he would amplify the countdown feed from NASA.

Before moving to Florida, Osband would fly down from his home in Rochester, New York for big launches. His first was the launch of Skylab in 1975. But his passion for space started long before that.

"I've always been a space cadet," he told WMFE last year, ahead of NASA's Artemis I launch. "I grew up watching Rocky Jones, Space Ranger."

An image of Ozzie Osband at Space View Park ahead of the Inspiration4 mission.
Maria Briceno
Ozzie Osband at Space View Park ahead of the Inspiration4 mission.

Osband's enthusiasm for space exploration extended beyond Space View Park and those watch parties. He also led the charge to bring the 321 area code to the Space Coast — a prefix Osband felt was perfect for the region home to the Space Shuttle and other rocket launches. Osband made the case for the launch-inspired area code to the Florida Public Service Commission in 1998.

"When I presented it to the commissioners, they loved it from the start," Osband told Spectrum News in 2019. "The audience — they liked it too."

One year later, the Space Coast got its numbers.

Governor Jeb Bush made the first call using the new area code dialing Kennedy Space Center’s director, with Osband standing beside.

Osband's own number started with 321, and he happily recalled the story of how it came to be to anyone who asked.

Along with his enthusiasm for space, Osband was a long-time supporter and volunteer with WMFE, helping the the station during on-air fund drives.

"He was always positive and super friendly," said Chris Howell, a former WMFE fundraising producer. "He was into space flight and ham radio. Ozzy had tons of great ideas and harmless schemes cooking. He was a great person."

In 2004, Osband served on WMFE's Community Advisory Board. A night owl, Osband enjoyed listening to the BBC on the station overnight — and was quick to alert WMFE's engineer if the broadcast went silent.

For 20 years, he volunteered at the American Space Museum, organizing talks and public outreach events. Osborne was a licensed amateur radio operator and hosted ham events for the organization.

For Osband, the thrill of the launch never got old. "For an old space cadet like me, it's still excitement. That's why I live here. To watch them go up for the excitement, because dammit, I wish I were riding that rocket."

The American Space Museum said Osband died Sunday at his home in Titusville. He was 72 years old.

Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
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