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Kennedy Space Center

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Launch Viewing Map
With the establishment of NASA in 1958, the location of Cape Canaveral made it a perfect place for launches. By July of 1962, because of the year-round good climate, the fact that it was sparsely populated, and because it was so close to the ocean, which allowed for over-the-water launches, NASA had established its Launch Operation Center on Cape Canaveral. On north Merritt Island is the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Renamed in late 1963 for the late president in honor of his dream of space exploration, the space center first started launching rockets in the 1950s. Cape Canaveral is also home to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and The Air Force Space and Missile Museum.

Atlas 5 At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

How to Visit Kennedy Space Center

Visitors can tour the historical site at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex. You'll get an opportunity to tour NASA's launch and landing facilities, ride the Shuttle Launch Experience, participate in the Astronaut Training Experience (ATX), and view interactive simulators and live shows. Rockets are on display, and you may even meet a NASA Astronaut. There are also Space Shuttle displays, historical NASA exhibits, IMAX movies, launch viewing, and more.


Rocket Garden Display

Cape Kennedy

Alan Shepard, the first American launched into space, took off from Cape Canaveral in 1962. The ultimate goal, however was to get a man to the moon and back safely. The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs were started in the 1960s. A launch complex designed specifically for the Saturn V was needed and that's how the Kennedy Space Center came into being. As they say, the rest is history: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins began their historic trip to the moon and back in 1969.

After the old Apollo programs had been phased out, the facilities were modified to take on a new dream: a launch with reusable booster rockets and an orbiter that could return from space and glide to a runway touchdown and be refitted to fly again.

The first Space Shuttle mission, using the orbiter Columbia, took off for space on April 12, 1981. More than 130 Space Shuttles have taken off from Kennedy Space Center's two launch pads since then, and still cause traffic along the Space Coast to stop and take notice of a dream that began so long ago.

The Future

Delta 4 Heavy Engines

But the dream has entered yet another phase, with the shuttles now being the main transport to the International Space Station (ISS), carrying relief astronauts and supplies, and using spacewalks to do all repairs as well as build additional modules onto the Space Station. Back home at the Kennedy Space Center, newer, more efficient launch systems are being researched and developed as the final space shuttle launch is almost here. Congress holds the keys to NASA's future.

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