"We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new, terrifying theater of war."
John F. Kennedy
Rice University Stadium
September 12, 1962
The spirit of discovery and competition addressed in Kennedy's speech summarizes America's focus on space flight in the 20th century. The United States became caught up in the space race with Russia as the Soviets prepared to send their Sputnik satellites into orbit. In response, all three branches of the armed forces vied to make the rocket that would put an American satellite in space, with the Navy's Vanguard Project winning out.
At the time, the Cape Canaveral area was a missile-testing site, a secluded area where missiles could be fired out over the ocean. As public interest in space flight grew, however, so did the facilities on Merritt Island, especially after the creation of NASA on October 1, 1958.
Seven days later, work commenced on the Mercury program, whose rockets would send the first American pilots into orbit. President Kennedy stated that they would send a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. In memory of his vision, the Launch Operations Center was renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center in 1963, after his assassination.
The Apollo 11 mission would realize Kennedy's dream; in July of 1969, the world watched as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon, saying, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Today, visitors can tour the Kennedy Space Center, which offers several interactive features, including two IMAX theaters. Attractions include a visitor-accessible, full-size space shuttle and a garden where the first rockets to launch man into space have been preserved for visitors.
The John F. Kennedy Space Center lets visitors to the Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway draw back the veil of space to discover the final frontier.
- Copyright © 2000 NASA.
- Copyright © 2001 NASA.
- Copyright © July, 2001 Indian River Lagoon Scenic Highway Coalition.