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JSC Origins

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By the early beginnings of NASA's and America's human space program some 40 years ago, the Langley Research Center in Virginia had a long and rich history. By the time the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created in 1958, Langley had been a part of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics for close to 50 years, working on the nation's aeronautics program. It was the first home of the Space Task Group (STG), which was formed with NACA/NASA engineers to conduct the Mercury Project. This core group began the early design of Mercury.

Then, on May 25, 1961, just three weeks after Alan Shepard became the first American in space, President John F. Kennedy set a goal for the United States that would surpass any previous engineering and scientific feat: Humans would land on the moon and return safely to Earth before the end of the decade.

President Kennedy at Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas
Image above: President Kennedy tells a crowd of 35,000 at Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas, "We intend to become the world's leading spacefaring nation." Credit: NASA + View Image

"Now it is time to take longer strides-time for a great new American enterprise-time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth," said the president, speaking before Congress. "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

A staggering job beyond the scope of Mercury had been dumped in NASA's lap. "Now how the hell are we going to do that?" one NASA engineer asked a colleague as they sat contemplating the speech in a quiet office at Langley.

Though physically located at Langley until the completion of Project Mercury, the STG was initially part of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Beltsville, Md. It had been decided to incorporate the STG under the mantle of the GSFC because the STG was a highly technical organization whose personnel had little time for administration. Thirty-five STG members were on the roster when the STG was officially born on Nov. 5, 1958. Most were engineers; a few were administrative. Another 15 engineers were on temporary assignment from Lewis Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio.

Construction of the Manned Spacecraft Center begins
Image above: Construction of the Manned Spacecraft Center begins. Credit: NASA + View Image

With the daunting task ahead, the STG needed new quarters with test facilities and research laboratories suitable to mount an expedition to the moon-not to mention the need for aircraft hangars, huge warehouses and office buildings. Long before it was built, the NASA-center-to-be was designated the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) and, from its inception, it was to be the lead center for all space missions involving astronauts.

Page 1: JSC Celebrates 40 Years of Human Space Flight
Page 2: JSC Origins
Page 3: JSC Origins
Page 4: JSC Origins
Page 5: Engineering the Future
Page 6: Home of the Nation's Astronaut Corps
Page 7: America's Nerve Center for Mission Operations
Page 8: America's Nerve Center for Mission Operations
Page 9: America's Nerve Center for Mission Operations
Page 10: The Triumph of Apollo
Page 11: The Triumph of Apollo
Page 12: The Triumph of Apollo
Page 13: America's First Space Station
Page 14: Expanding the Center's Role
Page 15: The Last Apollo
Page 16: Space Shuttle
Page 17: Space Shuttle
Page 18: International Space Station
Page 19: International Space Station
Page 20: The Next 40 Years