Kennedy Celebrates NASA's 50th
Apollo 13 cast and crew members at Kennedy

Director Ron Howard and actor Tom Hanks filmed a number of scenes at Kennedy for the "Apollo 13" movie. Photo credit: NASA/KSC
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Sir Richard Branson and Pilot Steve Fossett

Sir Richard Branson, chairman and founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways and Pilot Steve Fossett talk to the media about the record-breaking, non-stop solo flight. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
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Dr. Stephen Hawking twirls in weightlessness

Stephen Hawking enjoys zero gravity assisted by Peter Diamandis, founder, Byron Lichtenberg, president both of Zero G Corp. and Hawking's aide Nicola O'Brien. Photo credit: Jim Campbell/Aero-News Network
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Kings, queens, presidents, politicians, movie stars, musicians and tens-of-millions of everyday people from all over the world have flocked to NASA's Kennedy Space Center to experience America's space program.

President John F. Kennedy, for whom the center was later named, was the first American president to visit in 1962.

Through the years, royalty including Prince Philip of England, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and former Prime Minister of England Margaret Thatcher, just to name a few, toured the center.

The filming of space-related movies like "Apollo 13," "Contact," "Space Cowboys," "Armageddon" and "The Right Stuff" brought movie stars, directors and producers such as Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to the center for authentic scene shoots.

Major television journalists and film crews from TV series such as "Modern Marvels," "Dirty Jobs," and the History and Discovery Channels are just a few that have come to Kennedy to cover space shuttle launches, landings and to film documentaries.

Mrs. Laura Bush, only the third first lady to attend a launch, watched the liftoff of space shuttle Discovery on its historic Return to Flight mission STS-114, in July 2004.

In February 2006, the legendary pilot Steve Fossett soared into record books when he took off from Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility in Virgin Atlantic's single seat, Global Flyer aircraft.

Establishing a new aviation non-stop flying record of more than 25,000 miles, Fossett endured 76 hours and 45 minutes in the cramped cabin sitting atop hundreds of gallons of fuel.

Although suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, distinguished physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking traveled to Kennedy in April 2007 to realize a long-lived dream -- to experience weightlessness.

Hawking boarded a modified Boeing 727, managed by the Zero Gravity Corp. at the center's Shuttle Landing Facility. In flight, Hawking was able, with the support of his team, to float around the cabin for a few brief minutes, releasing him from the bonds of gravity.

NASA's Kennedy Space Center, through the last 50 years, has not only served as a launch platform to the universe, but has brought the universe closer to Earth for all to appreciate, study and enjoy.

Elaine M. Marconi
NASA's Kennedy Space Center