Bold idea also launched Space Coast
It began with a bold idea.
Speaking before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the ambitious goal of sending an American to the moon by the end of the decade. The announcement came just six weeks after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space and four years after the Soviet Union shocked and embarrassed the United States by launching Sputnik, the Earth’s first artificial satellite.
The advances, made during the tension-filled Cold War arms race, stoked fears that the U.S. had fallen behind in developing new technology.
A few months after Kennedy’s announcement, NASA began acquiring land on Merritt Island to support the Apollo Lunar Landing program. On July 1, 1962, exactly 60 years ago, NASA activated the site as its Launch Operations Center. In September 1962, in a speech at Rice Stadium in Texas, Kennedy uttered the now-famous words, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.’’
Kennedy would be assassinated a year later before his dream could be filled, but his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, named the Launch Operations Center the John. F. Kennedy Space Center just seven days after Kennedy’s death.
Ever since, KSC and the Space Coast have been center stage in human space exploration. Kennedy’s dream was achieved July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11, manned by Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, landed on the moon – before the end of the decade.
While the creation of the Kennedy Space Center and the Apollo mission clearly put the U.S. in the lead in the space race, it also had a profound effect close to home.
Brevard County, which attracted the best and the brightest to the space program, became known as the Space Coast, sporting an incredibly robust economy.
NASA says Kennedy Space Center generates more than $5.2 billion for Florida’s economy annually through the employment of more than 12,000 government and contract workers. In all, NASA says the Kennedy Space Center supports more than 27,000 jobs in Central Florida.
And to think it all happened because of the idea of sending a man to the moon.