Photos: The Kennedy Space Center, NASA's Historic Spaceport

Kennedy Space Center: America's Spaceport

Terry Virts

Over 50 years ago, NASA began building launch pads and towers on Florida's east coast. By 1960, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center adopted as an extension this "Missile Firing Laboratory." On July 1, 1962, NASA officially activated the Launch Operations Center at the seaside spaceport. The following year, the center underwent a name change to honor the president who put America on the path to the moon. NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center has served as the launch site for every American manned mission and hundreds of advanced scientific spacecraft.

Today, following the retirement of the space shuttle fleet, facilities at the space center remain open to visitors. In addition, newer attractions continue to be added, including the forthcoming unveiling of Shuttle Atlantis, the "Shuttle Experience" simulator, and the Angry Birds Space Encounter exhibit. See pictures of this historic site in this gallery.

In this photo, a T-38 plane banks over Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida as the crew arrives for the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test for STS-130. Image released April 20, 2011.

Vehicle Assembly Building Under Construction


The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) undergoes construction in early 1965 at Kennedy Space Center, with the Launch Control Center (LCC) and Service Towers viewed from across the Turning Basin. The largest one-story building in the world, it housed Saturn V rocket assembly activities, later converted to space shuttle procedures.

Historic Mercury Launch Complex 14


This aerial view of Launch Complex 14 (LC-14) at Cape Canaveral, adjacent to Kennedy Space Center, was taken in 1963. Mercury-Atlas 9 stands ready to blast off on May 15, 1963.

NASA Launches Gemini 5 Mission


NASA launched the Gemini 5 spacecraft, August 21, 1965 at 0900 EST on a planned eight-day mission from Launch Complex 19, Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, adjacent to Kennedy Space Center. Astronaut Gordon Cooper was the command pilot and Charles Conrad the pilot. This was the longest manned spaceflight at the time.

Launch Control Center Nears Completion in 1965


In the shadow of the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (under construction at right) the Launch Control Center nears completion at Kennedy Space Center in February 1965.

Saturn V 500F Rocket Rolls Out of the Vehicle Assembly Building


The Saturn V 500F rocket rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on May 25, 1966 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

President Kennedy at Cape Canaveral with NASA Officials


Dr. Wernher von Braun (center) describes the Saturn Launch System to President John F. Kennedy (right, pointing). NASA Deputy Administrator Robert Seamans stands to the left of von Braun. Cape Canaveral is the location of both Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center.

First Test Launch of a Saturn V Rocket


The giant Saturn V rocket for the Apollo 4 mission at the Kennedy Space Center's launch complex 39A stands at the dawn of November 8, 1967, during the pre-launch alert. Rockets of this type launched astronauts to the moon during the Apollo Program.

Saturn V's First Launch


The Apollo 4 (Spacecraft 017/Saturn 501) space mission was launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Nov. 9, 1967. The first launch from Kennedy of the giant Saturn 5 rocket paved the way for flights of Apollo astronauts to the moon.

Apollo 11 Launch


The Apollo 11 mission launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on July 16, 1969, bearing the first humans to walk on the moon.

Columbia Prepares for the First Launch


The space shuttle Columbia is pictured on the launch pad prior to the launch of the STS-1 mission – the maiden flight of NASA's space shuttle program. Columbia is showered in lights on the pad, in preparation for a Flight Readiness Firing of its main engines. Columbia lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 12, 1981.

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Tom Chao
Tom Chao has contributed to as a producer and writer since 2000. As a writer and editor, he has worked for the Voyager Company, Time Inc. New Media, HarperCollins and Worth Publishers. He has a bachelor’s degree in Cinema Production from the University of Southern California, and a master’s degree from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Tom on Google+.