Kennedy Space Center

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Kennedy Space Center

The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is the NASA space vehicle launch facility (spaceport) on Merritt Island in Florida. The site is near Cape Canaveral, midway between Miami and Jacksonville, Florida. It is 34 miles long and around 6 miles wide, covering 219 square miles. Around 17,000 people work at the site.

There is a visitor center and public tours and KSC is a major tourist destination for visitors to Florida. Because much of KSC is off limits to development, the site also serves as an important wildlife sanctuary, it’s quite common to see Alligators and to be bitten by Mosquitos! Only 9% of the land is developed. Mosquito Lagoon, The Indian River, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore are also features of this area.

The Lunar Program

The announcement of the lunar program led to an expansion of operations from the Cape to the adjacent Merritt Island. NASA began acquisition in 1962, by outright purchase. In July 1962 the site was named the Launch Operations Center. It was renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center in November 1963, after the recently assassinated president John F. Kennedy. The lunar project had three stages— Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. The objective of Mercury was to orbit and retrieve a manned Earth satellite. The project started in October 1957 using the Atlas ICBM as the base to carry the Mercury payload. but early testing used the Redstone rocket for a series of suborbital flights including the 15-minute flights of Alan Shepard on May 5 and Virgil Grissom on July 21, 1961. The first human carried by an Atlas was John Glenn on February 20, 1962.

From the knowledge gained through Mercury the more complex two-man capsules of Gemini were prepared as was a new launcher based on the Titan II ICBM. The first manned flight took place on March 23, 1965 with John Young and Virgil Grissom. Gemini 4 featured the first American extravehicular activity, by Edward H. White. There were twelve Gemini launches from KSC.

The Apollo program

The Apollo program had another new launcher—the three-stage Saturn V (111 m high and 10 m in diameter), built by Boeing (first stage), North American Aviation (engines and second stage) and Douglas Aircraft (third stage). North American Aviation also made the command and service modules while Grumman Aircraft Engineering constructed the lunar lander. IBM, MIT and GE provided instrumentation.

The Spoace Shuttle

KSC was the launch site for the Space Shuttle, reusing the Complex 39 Apollo infrastructure. The first launch was of Columbia on April 12, 1981. KSC also has a landing site for the orbiter, the 2.9 mile (4.6 km) Shuttle Landing Facility. However, the first end-of-mission Shuttle landing at KSC did not take place until February 11, 1984, when Challenger completed STS-41-B; the primary landing site had until that time been Edwards Air Force Base in California. Twenty-five flights had been completed by September 1988, with a large hiatus from January 28, 1986, to September 29, 1988, following the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster (which was the first shuttle launch from Pad 39B).

The Visitor Complex

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is home to a number of museums, two IMAX theatres, and various bus tours allowing visitors a closer look at various restricted areas that would otherwise not be possible. This works by running tour buses constantly around the center and you get off at each location and rejoin the tour at your leisure. Included in the base admission is tour-bus transportation into the restricted area to an observation gantry on the grounds of Launch complex 39, and to the Apollo-Saturn V Center. The observation gantry provides unobstructed views of both launch pads and all of Kennedy Space Center property. The Apollo-Saturn V Center is a large museum built around its centerpiece exhibit, a restored Saturn V launch vehicle, and features other space related exhibits, including an Apollo capsule. Two theaters allow the visitor to relive parts of the Apollo program. One simulates the environment inside an Apollo-era firing room during an Apollo launch, and another simulates the Apollo 11 landing. The tour also includes a visit to a building where modules for the International Space Station are tested.

The Visitor Complex also includes two facilities run by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation. The most visible of these is the Astronaut Memorial, also known as the Space Mirror, a huge black granite mirror through-engraved with the names of all astronauts who died in the line of duty. These names are constantly illuminated from behind, with natural light when possible, and artificial light when necessary. The glowing names seem to float in a reflection of the sky. The mirror moves with the seasons and illuminates the names of those that died on the anniversary of their deaths. Supplemental displays nearby give the details of the lives and deaths of the astronauts memorialised. Elsewhere on the Visitor Complex grounds is the Foundation's Center for Space Education, which includes a resource center for teachers, among other facilities

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Steve SewellMy Name is Steve Sewell and I have been visiting Florida regularly since 1990. From the very first vist I fell in love with the place and it still remains very strong. I am sure that many of you already feel the same and those that have yet to visit will get the "Bug". I hope the Love Florida Guide, helps you and gives you some advanced knowledge to make your visit even more pleasurable.

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