Kennedy Space Center
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center is America's premier gateway to the universe. As the world's only launch site for the Space Shuttle, Kennedy prepares the vehicles for each mission, operates each countdown and manages end-of-mission landing recovery activities. The Center also coordinates all expendable vehicle launches carrying a NASA payload, whether the launches take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, or elsewhere. Finally, as the last Earthly stop for International Space Station hardware, Kennedy prepares these elements for their missions in space.Brevard County, by virtue of its most prominent geographical feature - Cape Canaveral - became the focal point of a new era of exploration, the Space Age. The first step in the transformation began in October 1949, when President Harry S. Truman established the Joint Long Range Proving Ground (currently known as the Eastern Range), a vast overwater military rocket test range that now extends 5,000 miles down the Atlantic from Cape Canaveral to Ascension Island. The Cape was ideal for testing missiles. Virtually uninhabited, it enabled personnel to inspect, fuel and launch missiles without danger to nearby communities. The area's climate also permitted year-round operations, and rockets could be launched over water instead of populated areas. The first launch from the Cape was conducted by a military-civilian team on July 24, 1950. The rocket, a modified German V-2 with an attached upper stage, attained an altitude of 10 miles. In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced that the U.S. would send men to the Moon and back by the end of the decade. The program, called Apollo, would require the largest rocket ever built - the 363-foot-tall Saturn V. The Cape, which had served so well up until then, was inadequate as a launch site for the monstrous vehicle, and an adjacent location was selected. Shortly afterwards, the first steel and concrete structures of America's Spaceport sprouted from the marsh and scrublands of northern Merritt Island. Concurrently, NASA's Launch Operations Directorate at Cape Canaveral, an element of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center, was elevated to independent status in July 1962 and renamed the Launch Operations Center. It was renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center in November 1963, in honor of the slain president. Five and a half years later, in July 1969, the first humans departed from the Spaceport's Launch Complex 39 to walk on the moon. Following completion of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, the facilities of the Spaceport were modified to support the nation's newest launch vehicle - the reusable Space Shuttle. At Launch Complex 39, where Moon rockets were once readied for flight, engineers and technicians prepare the reusable Space Shuttle for manned Earth-orbital missions. Unmanned military and commercial rockets are processed and launched at complexes on nearby Cape Canaveral, under the oversight of the U. S. Air Force. Cargoes destined for space - whether a planetary explorer to survey Jupiter and Saturn, a communications satellite, or a military payload for the Department of Defense - are assembled and tested in specially designed and equipped laboratories. Elements of the Spaceport team have also conducted launch operations for unmanned polarorbiting missions from NASA facilities at Vandenberg AFB at the Western Range in California.
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