Johnson Space Center Saturn v Rocket

The Johnson Space Center stands today as the epicenter of all United States space flight and exploratory activity, and has been ever since the Gemini program of the early sixties. Located in Houston Texas, the space center is the home of mission control, and directs all space shuttle and International Space Station activities. It is also home to the Astronaut training corps, which includes programs to prepare astronauts for space travel and life aboard the station.

During the 1950’s the United States government began researching space travel and manned space flight with the intention of putting a man into space and returning him safely to the earth. From this program of research and scientific spending, NASA was formed to coordinate all US endeavors relating to space exploration and research. One of the primary requirements for the program was a centralized space flight center and James E. Webb, administrator of NASA in 1961, led an investigativeboard to determine what type of facility would be required. Some of the basic needs were access to telecommunications, established industry, water transport, and most importantly, an all-weather airport.

In 1961 the NASA board approved the site at Houston, Texas and construction began in 1962. The land, consisting of 1,610 acres, was donated by Rice University, satisfying another requirement for the site, which was access to educational centers. Charles Luckman designed the original facility and by 1963 the center was ready for use. When opened the center was named the “Manned Spacecraft Center”, and the Gemini IV project was operated from the mission control center at Houston. The groundbreaking Apollo program would follow, as did the Skylab program. The site was also home to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, where astronauts were quarantined after landing on the moon. The Apollo missions were the culmination of all the hard work throughout the fifties and sixties, and the Apollo Mission Control center was later named a national landmark.

Throughout the sixties the center carried out both successful, and unsuccessful missions, but in all circumstances paved the way for human space exploration. In 1973 the center was renamed as the Johnson Space Center, after former President Lyndon B. Johnson. President Johnson had been the driving force for the creation of the center since 1958 and upon his death, the hub of United States Space activity was named in his honor.

Today, Space Shuttle flights are coordinated from the Johnson Space Center, as is activity aboard the International Space station. The center is also responsible for operations at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, which will house mission control for the new Constellation program beginning in 2010. Since its creation the center has had ten directors, and is home to the Sonny Carter Training Facility, as well as a Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. As a part of its historical conservation directive, a functional Saturn-V rocket is on display at the center, as is the lunar module intended for use on the cancelled Apollo 19 mission.