50 Years of History
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex celebrated two milestones in space history in 2012 with the 50th anniversaries of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center and Americans in Orbit.
Launching aboard a Mercury-Atlas rocket in the Freedom 7 capsule, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962. Glenn circled the Earth three times, followed by a successful splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. While Alan Shepard had already become the first American into space by 1961, Glenn became the first American into orbit.
Three months later on May 24, 1962, aboard a Mercury-Atlas rocket in the Aurora 7 capsule, Scott Carpenter successfully replicated John Glenn's flight. Carpenter was able to orbit Earth three times and land in the Atlantic Ocean just as Glenn did. Carpenter's flight confirmed the capabilities of the spacecraft and encouraged possibilities of future space exploration.
Months later on July 1, 1962, the space center was officially acknowledged as an operating spaceflight center under the name Launch Operations Center. The name was later changed to John F. Kennedy Space Center in honor of the president and his vision of Americans visiting the moon.
For 50 years, John F. Kennedy Space Center has been the gateway to the universe. From carrying astronauts into space aboard rockets and space shuttles, launching space exploration devices and constructing the International Space Station, to building the vision and the future, the journey to space continues to begin and end with Kennedy Space Center.