Established as the Manned Spacecraft Center in 1961, the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (the Center) was named in honor of the late President. It is the primary facility charged design, development, and operation of human space flight in the United States. For nearly fifty years now, the Center can claim world-wide leadership in human space flight operations for NASA.

Beginning in 1963, Gemini IV was the first flight controlled from Houston, and then the Gemini program ended and the Apollo program began, having the original goal set by President Kennedy in 1961, of landing men on the Moon and returning them safely to earth prior to 1970.

The entire world watched television on July 20, 1969 as Neil Armstrong transmitted from the surface of the moon, “Houston, the Eagle has landed.” And then, a few hours later, he stepped down the ladder of the Lunar Module Eagle and spoke the now-famous words, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” as he took those historic first steps on the surface of the moon.

In 1973, the Manned Spacecraft Center was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center and has functioned as the heartbeat of the United States’ manned space flight program since that time. Controlling flights for the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz programs through the current Shuttle program, resident scientists, engineers, astronauts and dedicated staff members continue to operate the historic and cutting-edge facility.

The Center is the base of training for all the astronauts, and it is the site of Mission Control, where world-class flight controllers monitor all the operations in space, including development, production and delivery of the Space Shuttle orbiters; the testing of spacecraft associated systems; the development and integration of experiments for human space flight activities; supporting scientific engineering and medical research; and the selection and training of astronauts and the operation of human space flights.

The Center and NASA had no real public educational presence before Hal Stall, the director of Public Affairs at The Center, jump-started the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization. Stall and his group wanted to provide a world-class facility where the public could come for a hands-on experience of the NASA space program, and they wanted to do so without using tax dollars to fund it. So, the Foundation got support from many corporate sponsors, and eventually $68.4 million in tax-exempt bonds were sold to the public to complete the financing endeavor.

The Foundation hired Walt Disney Imagineering, the design and master planning arm of the Walt Disney Company. In conjunction with BRC Imagination Arts as a collaborating designer, the Disney team generated the initial concepts that would become Space Center Houston.

The goal was for reasonable admission fees to fund the day-to-day operation of the Center, as well as provide for the Center’s massive educational program. Another goal was to create an environment that would appeal to visitors emotionally as well as intellectually, through their hearts and not just their minds.

Thousand of school-age students benefit from these programs every year, all designed to entertain and excite young visitors, while telling the true story of space exploration in a realistic way, not as science fiction.

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