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1 Oct 1958 - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formally organized out of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency consisted of approximately 8,000 employees and had an annual budget of $100 million. On Oct. 7, just six days after NASA began operation, the first American human space flight program, Project Mercury, was initiated.
|5 May 1961 - After extensive preparations and several frustrating launch attempts, Alan B. Shepard Jr. became the first American to make a space flight. He launched from Complex 5 at Cape Canaveral aboard a Redstone rocket. His Freedom 7 capsule reached an altitude of 116 miles during this suborbital flight and splashed down some 304 miles out into the Atlantic. The six flights in the Mercury program concluded with Gordon Cooper's launch on May 15, 1963.|
|24 Aug 1961 - NASA announced that it intends to expand the Cape Canaveral facilities for manned lunar flight and other missions requiring advanced Saturn and Nova boosters by acquiring 80,000 acres of land north and west of the Air Force Missile Test Center facilities at the Cape. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was designated to act as real estate acquisition agent for NASA, and the Lands Division of the Justice Department was designated to handle the legal aspects.|
|1 July 1962 - Dr. Kurt H. Debus was named director of the Launch Operations Center which later became the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Having supervised the development and construction of launch facilities at Cape Canaveral from 1952 to 1960 for the U.S. Army, he was the natural choice to direct the design, development and construction of NASA's Apollo/Saturn V facilities at KSC. He retired in November 1974, having been responsible for the launches conducted during the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab programs.|
|July 1963 - Construction of the Vehicle Assembly Building began and was substantially completed early in 1966. At the time of its construction it was the largest building in the world, with an enclosed area of 129,482,000 cubic feet. At a height of 525 feet, 10 inches to the top of the finished roof of its high bays it was constructed with 98,590 tons of steel and 65,000 cubic yards of concrete.|
|29 Nov 1963 - President Johnson renamed both the Launch Operations Center and the Cape Canaveral Auxiliary Air Force Station to the John F. Kennedy Space Center seven days after the president was assassinated. NASA Administrator James Webb officially issued a similar order changing the name of NASA's facility on Dec. 20, 1963. The U.S. Department of the Interior's Board of Geographical Names changed the name of the geographical cape from Cape Canaveral to Cape Kennedy the following year.|
|23 Mar 1965 - Gus Grissom and John Young made the first launch of the Gemini Program aboard the spacecraft Molly Brown. By so doing, Grissom and Young formed the first NASA astronaut "crew" since this was the first time that the U.S. had launched two astronauts in the same capsule. The Gemini Program was designed to prepare the way for lunar missions by demonstrating the feasibility of rendezvous and docking two spacecraft. There were 10 manned flights in the Gemini Program.|
|Aug 1965 - Construction of the first stretch of the Crawlerway, between the Vehicle Assembly Building and Launch Pad 39A, was completed. Consisting of two 40-foot-wide lanes separated by a 50-foot median, the Crawlerway was designed to support the 17,000,000 pound load of a Transporter carrying a Mobile Launcher and Apollo-Saturn V.|
|27 Jan 1966 - The first of three Mobile Launchers was moved into the Vehicle Assembly Building. Weighing in at 10,500,000 pounds, the Mobile Launchers functioned as erection platforms for the Apollo/Saturn Vs and launch stands for the vehicle at the pads. These same refurbished Mobile Launchers are used today in the Space Shuttle program and are called Mobile Launch Platforms.|
|25 May 1966 - The first Apollo/Saturn V, a facilities test model, was rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building atop a 6,000,000 pound Transporter, a public sign that the Apollo Program was well under way. Each of the two Transporters, built by the Marion Power Shovel Co., had a load capacity of 12,000,000 pounds, and when loaded, could traverse the Crawlerway between the VAB and the pad at a top speed of one mile per hour. Today, these same "Crawler-Transporters" are used to move the Space Shuttle stacks atop their Mobile Launcher Platforms out to the pads for launch.|
|27 Jan 1967 - The three-man crew for the first manned Apollo space flight (AS-204) died in an accident at 6:31 p.m. EST at KSC's Launch Complex 34. A flash fire swept through the Apollo 1 capsule mated to a Saturn IB during the first major dress rehearsal for the mission, scheduled for launch on Feb. 21. The crew included Virgil I. Grissom, the second American to fly in space in the Liberty Bell 7; Edward H. White II, the first American to walk in space during Gemini IV; and Roger B. Chaffee, preparing for his first space flight. The unmanned Apollo flights continued on schedule, but the manned flights were delayed for 18 months as needed safety changes were made.|
|9 Nov 1967 - One of KSC's two new pads at Launch Complex 39, Pad A, was used for the first time to launch the first Saturn V on Apollo 4, the first launch in the Apollo Program. This powerful three-stage vehicle, towering over previous launch vehicles at 363 feet, produced more than seven-and-one-half million pounds of thrust, equal to about 180 million horsepower. This was also the first time that one of the firing rooms in KSC's Launch Control Center was used. Constructed between March 1964 and May 1965, the LCC won the 1965 Architectural Award for the Industrial Design of the Year.|
|11 Oct 1968 - Apollo 7, the first manned launch in the Apollo Program, was a "101 percent successful" mission. The crew included Walter Schirra, Don Eisele, and Walt Cunningham. The spacecraft's performance in Earth orbit was flawless, including eight firings of the spacecraft's primary propulsion system and the first live television broadcast from a manned space vehicle. It was the last launch from Complex 34 with all subsequent Apollo launches taking place from Complex 39.|
|16 July 1969 - The launch of Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission, took place precisely on time at 9:32 a.m. EDT by a Saturn V. The Lunar Module touched down in the Moon's Sea of Tranquility at 4:38 p.m. EDT, July 20, and Commander Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface at 10:56 p.m. EDT that evening, followed by Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin. Apollo 11 attained the national goal, set by President Kennedy in 1961, of landing men on the Moon and returning then safely to Earth within the decade of the 1960s. + View video feature