Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations


By now the grandeur of the achievement of landing men on the moon and returning them to earth has taken its place in our language as a yardstick of human accomplishment - "lf we could send men to the moon, why can't we do so-and-so?" The most imposing artifact of that achievement is the Apollo launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center.

When the national objective of landing men on the moon was dramatically announced in May 1961, it quickly became apparent within NASA that the remainder of the decade was little enough time to design, build, and equip the extensive and unprecedented facilities required to launch such missions. Indeed, time was so pressing that for many months the planning, designing, even initial construction of launch facilities had to go forward without answers to some essential questions, such as: How big would the launch vehicle(s) be? How many launches would there be, and how often?

Intense effort by a rapidly growing team of people in government, industry, and the universities gradually filled in the grand design and answered those questions. Land was acquired, ground was broken, pipe was laid, concrete was poured, buildings rose. When the launch vehicles and spacecraft arrived, the facilities were ready and operations could begin. Seldom was the pressure off or the path smooth, but the end of the decade saw the deadline met, the task accomplished.

This history tells the story of the Apollo launch facilities and launch operations from the beginning of design through the final launch. You will meet many of the cast of thousands who took part in the great adventure. You will read of the management techniques used to control so vast an undertaking, of innovation in automation, of elaborate, repetitive, exhaustive testing on the ground to avoid failures in space. You will also learn something of the impact of the Apollo program on the citrus groves and quiet beaches of Florida's east coast.

It is fitting that, as this manuscript was being prepared, these same facilities were being modified to serve as the launch site for Apollo's successor, the Space Shuttle, for at least the remainder of this century.

August 1977

Lee R. Scherer Director Kennedy Space Center