The Cape Canaveral area consists of a headland located on Florida's Central Atlantic coast, and Merritt Island just west of the Cape Canaveral. This area is the location for the cruise ship port, Port Canaveral. While Cape Canaveral has value as being home to one of the world's busiest cruise ports, there is more to explore here than just the port. The Cape Canaveral area has a significant value for its contribution to the American Space Program.
Cape Canaveral and the Space Coast
Cape Canaveral is a major part of Florida's Space Coast. Kennedy Space Center is located in the area on nearby Merritt Island. Rockets and other spacecraft are launched from Kennedy Space Center. Because of the dominant presence of the space program in the region, Florida's Central Atlantic Coast is known as the Space Coast. The Cape Canaveral was picked as a place to build the Kennedy Space Center. There are several reasons for this. Geography and physics are paramount factors.
Geography and Earth's Rotation
Cape Canaveral is located on the east coast of the United States of America. Why on the US's eastern coastline? Why not on the Pacific coast of the USA? This has everything to do with the rotation of Earth. Earth rotates on its axis in an easterly direction. When a rocket is launched from Cape Canaveral, that rocket will be launched with the spin of the earth. East of Florida is the Atlantic Ocean. A rocket or any other spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral will land in the ocean, rather than landing in a populated area. Launching a rocket from the US' west coast would present problems. If a rocket launched from the Pacific Coast of the mainland US is launched with the spin of the Earth, that rocket will be launched over populated areas. This could present a dangerous situation for people living in that direction. If launched towards the Pacific Ocean, the rocket would be launched against the natural spin of the earth.
Another geographic advantage for the Cape Canaveral area is its southern location compared to most of the mainland US. This area is closer to the Equator than most other places in the US. Why is it important to have a launch site as close to the Equator as possible? This has everything to do with the spinning of Earth. The rotation of Earth is faster towards the Equator. A faster rotation is advantageous in launching rockets into orbit, as they will be boosted by the faster spin at a southerly latitude. Cape Canaveral is located at a latitude of 28 degrees North.
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
The Cape Canaveral area has been home to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station since 1940. In 1949 it was commissioned as a site for missile launches. Cape Canaveral was a launching site before NASA was founded in 1958. After the establishment of NASA, Cape Canaveral was chosen as a site for launching missiles for NASA.
First Manned Space Flights
On May 5, 1961, the first manned space flight took place. The spaceflight took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Alan B. Shephard would become the first American to enter space. It was part of Project Mercury. On February 20, 1962, John Glenn would become the first American to enter orbit. This launch also took place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center was founded on July 1, 1962. Then-President John F. Kennedy had a goal: Land a human being on the moon within one decade. The launching site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was deemed inadequate. More room was needed for larger rockets, in particular, the Saturn V rockets. Because of this, what would become the Kennedy Space Center was built on Merritt Island nearby. The Apollo Program began in 1967. The first rocket to be launched from the Kennedy Space Center was the Apollo 4. It was the first unmanned spaceflight from the KSC. July 20, 1969, would be a date that would change human space flight. The Apollo 11 was launched using the Saturn V rocket. It would land on the moon soon after. It was the first manned flight to land on the moon, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. This flight was launched from the Kennedy Space Center.