At the dawn of the Space Shuttle program, NASA's Launch Control Center (LCC) was placed off limits for public tours. On June 15, however, busses embellished with Kennedy Space Center (KSC) decals began whisking visitors off to the control complex for the first time in more than three decades - nearly a year after the final shuttle mission last summer.
After clearing a security checkpoint, our bus wheels its way deep into Kennedy Space Center, NASA's 240,000-acre property on Merritt Island, Fla., that doubles as a wildlife refuge. The monolithic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) comes into view and grows larger as we approach. Referred to by NASA employees as the heart of the operation, the VAB houses spacecraft as they're pieced together. Once complete, a 6-million-pound crawler-transporter sidles up to the structure, gets fitted with the craft and ferries it over a gravel roadway to the launch pad 3.4 miles away. The LCC, which staff dubbed the brains of the system, is adjoined to the VAB by a slim corridor protruding from its boxy, white exterior.
Gallery: NASA's Launch Control Center
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