Astronaut on the moon.
The Moon and Beyond
Spanish Discovery in 1513
We've already met
Ponce de León. He's credited with first discovering Cape Canaveral in 1513.
Apparently the natives he met had not actually discovered the land he
claimed for Spain. Apparently Ponce
called the area Corrientes, a Spanish word that described the strong
currents he experienced off its coast.
At that time, the
Ais Indians inhabited the area. De León and another European, Francisco
Gordillo, had problems with them from the moment of their first
encounter. The Ais had developed a method
of making superior cane arrows with razor sharp ends. The cane arrows killed many
Europeans. As a result of that battle, the name Canaveral, meaning cane
bearer, began appearing on maps of the area. Now you know how Cape
Canaveral got it's name.
Air Force Missile Testing
The United States
Air Force acquired the land at Cape Canaveral in the 1940s. By late
1950, it opened a missile testing station there. The location was
perfect for testing missiles:
- It was isolated
and would not threaten humans.
- The climate was
temperate year round and provided a great many launching
- It was on the
coast and had access to tracking stations in the Caribbean.
Birth of the
On July 24, 1950,
a small rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral marking the real
beginning of the space program. Rockets were launched throughout the
next decade in an effort to keep up with the Soviet Union's budding
space program. In 1957 the Russians had launched Sputnik. The Space Race
The Cape Canaveral
space program brought businesses to Florida and began to boost the
economy. Jobs and opportunities became available in the area. Pan
American World Airways, the Radio Corporation of America, TransWorld
Airlines, General Electric, and the Martin-Marietta Company all opened
branches near the Cape.
In 1958, the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, was created. NASA
is a federal agency chartered to conduct space operations. NASA employed
mostly civilians. Originally, NASA oversaw launching and supervising
satellites that had scientific, weather, and communication capabilities.
Goal: Man on the
In 1961, when
President John F. Kennedy announced that the United States would "put a
man on the moon" before the end of the decade, NASA's space program took
on an entirely new sense of importance.
was developed to enable man to orbit the earth. The capsules used in
this project were only large enough for one man. On February 20, 1962,
John Glenn became the first American to go into orbit.
In 1963, NASA
acquired almost 90,000 acres on Merritt Island near the Cape. A large
complex of buildings was established on the property destined to become
the hub of the American space industry. In that complex, the astronauts
were trained and the space rockets were built. When President Kennedy
was assassinated later in the year, the Cape's name was changed to Cape
Kennedy, but it was later changed back to Cape Canaveral. However, the
complex was renamed the Kennedy Space Center.
The next step was
the development of the Gemini Program. This program involved building
larger spacecraft that could hold two astronauts. The Gemini Program
initiated docking with other spacecrafts, extended the length of space
flights, and made possible space walks to gain more information about
the unknown frontier of space. The program was very successful and all
of the goals were met within the decade.
The space program
continued to expand with the Apollo Program. The Apollo Program finally
fulfilled the promise made by Kennedy when, on July 20, 1969, Neil
Armstrong stepped on the surface of the moon and said, "That's one small
step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Visits to the moon continued
as NASA continued to redesign itself and its mission.
The space shuttle
program began in the 70s and flourished in the 80s. Florida once again
became the center of attention as this new spacecraft concept made space
travel less of a dream and more of a reality. Attending launches became
an exciting experience for Floridians and other Americans. Throughout
the state, people who had never thought about the space program could
stand outside their homes and watch the shuttle go into space. The
entire state suffered on January 28, 1986 when the Challenger space
shuttle exploded and killed all seven members of the crew, including
teacher Christa McAuliffe, the first civilian astronaut.
Today: The Moon and Beyond
and numerous setbacks, Florida remains closely associated with NASA and the space
program. Today, young and old tourists can go to Cape Canaveral and
visit the Kennedy Space Center, Spaceport USA, and the Astronaut Hall of
Fame. They can visit exhibitions that recount the history of manned
space flight, take guided tours of launchpads, and find out all about
NASA and its plans for the future. The Kennedy Space Center opens a
fascinating window to the vastness of space.