The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) , located on Merritt Island, Florida is the US government installation that manages and operates America’s astronaut launch facilities. The NASA field center also conducts civilian launches from adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. KSC has been the launch site for every U.S. human space flight since December 1968.
It is 34 miles (55 km) long and roughly 6 miles (10 km) wide, covering 219 square miles (570 km2). A total of 13,500 people worked at the center as of 2008. Approximately 2,200 are employees of the federal government; the rest are contractors.
Launch Complex 39
All launch operations are conducted at Launch Complex 39 (LC-39), where the shuttle’s major components arrive, are stacked and checked out inside the VAB ,then moved to Pad 39A for launch. Shuttles were also launched from adjoining Pad 39B until 2007.Both pads are on the ocean, 3 miles (5 km) east of the VAB. From 1969–1972, LC-39 was the departure point for all six Apollo manned Moon landing missions using the Saturn V, the largest and most powerful operational launch vehicle in history.
Kennedy Space Center was created to meet the changing needs of America’s manned space program, initially in competition with the Soviet Union. The facility was originally known as the Launch Operations Directorate (LOD) but in 1963, the facility received its current name following Kennedy’s death.
The U.S. accomplished a manned lunar landing in three stages Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. The Apollo program required large three-stage Saturn V rocket . Launch Complex 39 (LC-39) was built on Merritt Island to accommodate the new rocket. Construction of the $800 million project began in November 1962. From 1967 through 1973, there were 13 Saturn V lift-offs, including the ten remaining Apollo missions after Apollo 7. From 1970–1972, the Apollo program concluded at KSC with the launches of missions 13 through 17. In 1981 KSC became the launch site for the Space Shuttle program. The initial launch, Columbia on April 12, 1981, was the first of a vehicle with astronauts aboard which had no prior unmanned launch.
The planned end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 is expected to produce a significant downsizing of the KSC workforce similar to that experienced at the end of the Apollo program in 1972.
KSC Visitor Center
KSC is a major Central Florida tourist destination and is approximately one hour’s drive from Walt Disney World and other theme parks in the Orlando area. Each year, millions of tourists from across the world visit NASA Kennedy Space Center launch headquarters, located on a wildlife refuge eight times the size of Manhattan , where many of mankind’s greatest accomplishments take place . Only in 2009 there were approximately 1.5 million visitors.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center , operated since 1995 has a variety of exhibits, artifacts, displays and attractions on the history and future of human and robotic spaceflight. Bus tours of KSC also originate from here. The complex includes the separate Apollo , Saturn V Center north of the VAB, and the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame six miles west near Titusville.
At Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex visitors have the unique chance to see NASA’s launch and landing facilities, experience interactive simulators, enjoy live shows and have jaw-dropping encounters with massive rockets or even even meet a veteran NASA astronaut.