The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.
Since 2011, NASA's strategic goals have been
President Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, replacing its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The agency became operational on October 1, 1958.
Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency's astronauts farther into space than ever before and provide the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.
The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is the United States launch site that has been used for every NASA human space flight since 1968. Although such flights are currently on hiatus, KSC continues to manage and operate unmanned rocket launch facilities for the U.S. government's civilian space program from three pads at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Its Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is the fourth-largest structure in the world by volume and was the largest when completed in 1965.
Located on Merritt Island, Florida, the center is north-northwest of Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic Ocean, midway between Miami and Jacksonville on Florida's Space Coast. It is 34 miles (55 km) long and roughly 6 miles (10 km) wide, covering 219 square miles (570 km2). A total of 13,100 people worked at the center as of 2011. Approximately 2,100 are employees of the federal government; the rest are contractors.
Since December 1968, all launch operations have been conducted from Pads A and B at Launch Complex 39 (LC-39). Both pads are on the ocean, 3 miles (5 km) east of the VAB. From 1969–1972, LC-39 was the departure point for all six Apollo manned Moon landing missions using the Saturn V, the largest and most powerful operational launch vehicle in history, and was used from 1981–2011 for all Space Shuttle launches. The Shuttle Landing Facility, located just to the north, was used for most Shuttle landings and is among the longest runways in the world.