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The Kennedy Space Center (KSC)

The Kennedy Space Center (KSC)

The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is one of the few places in the world from where the man has embarked on his space journey. Here is a glimpse of the rich past and amazing present of NASA's launch headquarters.
Abhijit Naik
The John F. Kennedy Space Center, also known as KSC, is the launch headquarters of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Located on Merritt Island in Florida, United States, it is 34-miles long, 6-miles wide, and covers an area of 219 square miles. It is also a major tourist attraction for people coming to Florida.

Facts About the Kennedy Space Center

It was built in 1962 during the regime of President John F. Kennedy. Originally named the 'Launch Operations Center', it was renamed as the John F. Kennedy Space Center after the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963. Initially, the whole area, including Cape Canaveral, was renamed, but unrest among the locals forced the authorities to revert the name of Cape Canaveral.

The Kennedy Space Center began its operations in the mid-1960s with NASA's lunar program. Though it was authorized for the entire lunar program, which included three stages: Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, the initial 2 stages of the program, Project Mercury and Project Gemini were launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, as KSC was still being developed. Eventually NASA geared up for the Apollo program, ready with a new launcher, the Saturn V. KSC spent $800 million on building Launch Complex 39 to accommodate this launch vehicle. It was completed in 1966 and thirteen Saturn V launches were executed from the KSC between 1967 and 1973. In 1973, it was also utilized to put the Skylab space station in orbit. Launch Complex 39 is the only launch site at the KSC.

In the 1980s, it became the launch site for the Space Shuttle, also known as the Space Transportation System (STS). The first launch under the STS mission was executed on April 12, 1981, with the launch of space shuttle Columbia. The KSC also developed a 'Shuttle Landing Facility'―a 2.9-miles long landing facility. The first landing at this facility took place on February 11, 1984, when space shuttle Challenger returned after completion of mission STS-41-B.

In the beginning of the 21st century, KSC faced natural hazards like hurricanes and lightning strikes. In September 2004, it was damaged by Hurricane Frances. The roof was shattered due to strong winds and it suffered large-scale interior damage due to water penetration. Again in October 2005, KSC suffered some damages after getting struck by Hurricane Wilma. The area where this NASA facility is located is subject to frequent lightning strikes, which has forced NASA to spend a large sum of money to protect the facility. The launch pad at KSC experienced the first lightning bolt during Hurricane Ernesto, which led to a delay in the launch of STS-115 in 2006.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has museums, simulation rides, IMAX theaters, as well as bus tours giving an opportunity to visitors to get a closer look at the restricted areas. The 'Apollo-Saturn V Center' is a museum exhibiting an Apollo Capsule and other space-related exhibits. It has a Saturn V launch vehicle as its centerpiece exhibit. At the IMAX theaters at the KSC, visitors can relive the Apollo program. Other articles displayed at the facility include the Gemini 9A Capsule, the Command Module of Apollo/Skylab Rescue mission, the Apollo Lunar Module LM-9, etc. The Visitor Complex is run by the Delaware North Companies.

A Chronological List of Directors of the KSC
  • Dr. Kurt H. Debus (July 1962 - November 1974)
  • Lee R. Scherer (January 1975 - September 1979)
  • Richard G. Smith (September 1979 - August 1986)
  • Forrest S. McCartney (August 1986 - December 1991)
  • Robert L. Crippen (January 1992 - January 1995)
  • Jay F. Honeycutt (January 1995 - March 1997)
  • Roy D. Bridges, Jr. (March 1997 - August 2003)
  • James W. Kennedy (August 2003 - January 2007)
  • William W. Parsons (January 2007 - October 2008)
  • Robert D. Cabana (October 2008 - present)
The 'Space Mirror Memorial' is a huge black granite mirror bearing the names of all the astronauts who died in the line of duty. Also known as the 'Astronaut Memorial', it is always illuminated with light from behind and gives an illusion of the names floating in the reflection of sky. The Visitors Complex is also home to the 'Foundation's Center for Space Education', a resource center for teachers. Both these ventures are managed by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation.

The John F. Kennedy Space Center is a technological marvel, where more than 10,000 people work day and night to realize our dreams. They have already started gearing up for future launch programs. The next rockets to be launched are Ares I and Ares V, which will carry the 'Orion Spacecraft' to the space.