NASA's Kennedy Space Center turns 50 this year. And now anyone can tour the historic spaceport from the comfort of their own homes.
Google's Street View cars recently canvassed the facility, taking some 6,000 panoramic images of the site. These images not only include 360-degree views of the pathways and buildings around the center, but also interior views of important structures within the facility.
Users can access the collection by searching for "Kennedy Space Center" on the Google Maps website. Dragging the Street View peg-man icon to one of Kennedy's main pathways starts the virtual tour.
The Street View website shows some of the featured imagery, including the hangar bay where the Endeavour space shuttle was stored, the Space Station Processing Facility, (for payloads going to and coming from the International Space Station), the Apollo/Saturn V Center, and the Space Shuttle engine shop.
The cache of images from around Kennedy is Google's largest specialized collection to date. NASA also seems to have another strategy in letting the Street View cars in: giving those interested a view of the transitioning purpose of the site.
For much of its five decades, the Kennedy Space Center has played a key role in manned spaceflight, whether it be for the Apollo program that took Americans to the moon or the recently retired Space Shuttle program. With NASA scaling back its efforts, the spaceport is looking to transition into a hybrid government-commercial launch center
This requires Kennedy's aging infrastructure to be revamped, and Google Maps gives a street-level view of those efforts.
Chief among them is the Commercial Crew Program, a team based at Kennedy working with private space flight companies to develop and launch the next generation of manned spaceflight vehicles. The hope is that with private entities taking the lead, space exploration overall will accelerate now that government bureaucracy is of the way.
NASA plans to make the first announcements of commercial partners in this effort on Friday, August 3.