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Cape Canaveral: The Start Of A Journey Into The Heavens

Cape Canaveral is a well-known area in the State of Florida (http://www.firstfloridafsbo.com) in the United States. It was the site of many notable launches of spacecraft for space travel including Apollo 11, the first flight to the moon.

The Start of the Space Age

On October 4, 1957, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics launched the first artificial satellite off Baikonur Cosmodrome and ignited the beginning of the Space Race. At this time, the USSR and the USA was engaged in a Cold War and the Space Race was part of it. Naturally, the United States wished to catch up and made its own attempt to launch an artificial satellite - nicknamed Vanguard TV3 - off Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This was to be the first launch of United States spacecraft off Cape Canaveral.

The launch was carried out on December 6, 1957. However, the launch was deemed a failure as the rocket vehicle exploded upon launch after losing thrust and crashing back into the launch pad. The accident is assumed to be caused by the breach of ignited fuel into the rocket's fuel system, although the true reason has never been revealed or confirmed.

The U.S. bounced back on its failures, though, successfully launching its first artificial satellite on January 31, 1958. Dubbed "Explorer 1", the satellite was the first to discover the Van Allen radiation belt - a belt of charged particles trapped in space - although the discovery would only be confirmed later on during the launch of Explorer 3.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created on July 28, 1958 to answer the U.S. Congress' perceived threat to the U.S. security following the launch of Sputnik by the USSR. It commenced operations on October 1, 1958, with only four laboratories and 80 employees but, after awhile, it incorporated the Naval Research Laboratory and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency to augment its academic ranks.

What followed was a flurry of launches of spacecraft, all of them using the Cape Canaveral area as a base. Alan Shepard's space journey aboard Freedom 7 was launched off the John F. Kennedy Space Center on May 5, 1961. John Glenn, the first human being to make a complete orbit around the Earth, and the Friendship 7 spacecraft was also launched off Cape Canaveral on February 20, 1962 as well as Gus Grissom and John Young aboard Gemini 3 on March 23, 1965.

All of these space missions, however, only served as a precursor to a bigger event in the Space Race. The Shepard and Glenn missions were studies done by NASA regarding short-term human survival in outer space, while the Gemini space flights were done to see if long-duration space flight was possible for humans. All of these missions were feasibility studies to prepare mankind for the journey to the Moon.

The Apollo Missions

In a bid to gain an edge over the USSR following its failure to launch the first artificial satellite, the United States announced in 1961 that it will put men on the Moon. This announcement paved the way for the Apollo program (1961-1975), a series of launches off Cape Canaveral aimed to conduct lunar landing operations by American astronauts.

The U.S. government then acquired 131 square miles of land in Merritt Island by outright purchase and negotiated with the state of Florida for an additional 87 square miles. All operations were to be expanded to the new site, which was subsequently named Launch Operations center in July 1962, and finally to John F. Kennedy Space Center in November 1963. It was from this new site that the Apollo missions and the later Space Shuttle missions were launched.

Although it began with a failure - Apollo 1 burned on the launch pad killing its three astronauts including Gus Grissom of the Gemini project - the Apollo program was largely successful. On July 16, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon, followed by several others until December 1972. The only other failure within the Apollo program is an in-space accident aboard Apollo 13, a mission that was deemed a "successful failure" because the crew made it back safely to Earth.

Later Missions and Current Status

The Cape Canaveral area continued to be used as a launch pad for later space flights. Space Shuttle Columbia, the first Space Shuttle to be fired into space, was launched off JFK Space Center on April 12, 1981. Other shuttles were launched using JFK Space Center.

JFK Space Center is also open to public visitors, with two museums and two IMAX theaters for tourists. The Visitor Complex staff allows visitors to tour the restricted facilities for a fee.

Residents living in the Florida area can easily access the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Submitted by:

Attila Jancsina

Attila Z Jancsina is a freelance copy writer. He occasionally writes for Florida Real Estate. Website offers Free FSBO advertisement.




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