In a recent blog post, I referred to a cartoon that called the Cape Canaveral area of Florida “NASA’s Graveyard.” It was a joke, of course, but as a Florida resident and a Florida lover and an author who writes about Florida frequently, it’s worth pointing out what a neat place Cape Canaveral really is.
In 2011, NASA ended its space shuttle program with the landing of Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. But there’s still plenty going on in Cape Canaveral.
Cape Canaveral technically refers to the city on the east coast of Florida. It’s a city of only 2.3 square miles, and a population of about 10,000. There are two main attractions on the cape: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and Kennedy Space Center.
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, or CCAFS, is part of the United States Air Force Space Command, which is a major command within the Air Force. The U.S. Air Force Space Command has its headquarters in Colorado, and uses satellite and cyber operations to support U.S. military operations worldwide. CCAFS in Cape Canaveral is where we launched the first U.S. Earth satellite, the first U.S. astronaut, and the first unmanned lunar landing.
The United States Air Force Space Command often gets overlooked. In my Hunt for Jack Reacher books, we hear a lot about the U.S. Army because Jack Reacher served in the U.S. Army. In my thriller Jack and Joe, FBI Special Agents head to Fort Bird, North Carolina seeking information about Reacher’s past. We get a good feel for army life while they’re there. But you don’t hear much about the United States Air Force Space Command as an organization, which makes Cape Canaveral all the more fascinating to me.
Kennedy Space Center works very closely with Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. You can see how close the two are in the image below. Kennedy Space Center is in white, and CCAFS is in green.
Kennedy Space Center is one of ten of NASA’s field centers. It is, of course, is where space shuttle programs were launched, including the first manned moon landing. KSC continues to work with the International Space Station, and works on projects to continue human spaceflight. And then there’s Kennedy Space Center’s visitor complex, which is a major tourist attraction, with exhibits on the history and future of spaceflight, Q&A sessions with astronauts, and more! Have you ever been?
So why Cape Canaveral? What makes it such a prime location for space technology development? Two things:
- It’s best to be near sparsely populated areas — like the ocean — in case of accidents downrange.
- Cape Canaveral is one of the U.S.’s closest points to the Equator, which helps give rockets a boost as they use the velocity of the Earth’s rotation to their advantage when traveling east.
Coming up this Saturday, I have a blog post planned for you where I want to tell you some really interesting facts about Cape Canaveral. Stay tuned for more interesting tidbits about one of the most interesting places in Florida!
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