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It began with a bold idea.
Speaking before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the ambitious goal of sending an American to the moon by the end of the decade. The announcement came just six weeks after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space and four years after the Soviet Union shocked and embarrassed the United States by launching Sputnik, the Earth’s first artificial satellite.
It happened 60 years ago come July 1. Merritt Island was officially designated the U.S. space program’s Launch Operations Center — which a year later would become known as the Kennedy Space Center — under NASA.
While Brevard County enjoys one of the most diverse economies in the country, it will always remain intrinsically connected to the economy of the space program and the Kennedy Space Center, which has significantly impacted the county’s ups and downs since its start in 1962.
With rockets launching almost every week, there is a renewed interest in America’s space program. People line the beaches and roadways surrounding Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch rockets launched from pads 39A and 39B, and the adjoining Canaveral Space Force Base pads. Since the opening of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center 60 years ago, large crowds have been coming to Brevard County for a firsthand experience as the race for the moon heated up. For a comprehensive look at the space program, tourists can head to KSC’s visitors complex.
All types of birds, alligators, snakes and wild boars can be found in the large wildlife sanctuary that is a good portion of NASA’s field center on Merritt Island. Only about 9% of the 144,000 acres that comprise the John F. Kennedy Space Center has been developed. NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building, at 525 feet tall, is visible from quite a distance.