Mississippi entered the space age in the early 1960s when NASA announced plans to place its test facilities for the Saturn V Moon rocket in the southern part of the state. Less than eight years later, American astronauts walked on the lunar surface, safely transported hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth by a space vehicle equipped with first and second stages tested and proven flightworthy at the John C. Stennis Space Center. The facility, located in Hancock County, Mississippi, is NASA's lead center for rocket propulsion testing and for commercial remote sensing within the Mission to Planet Earth Enterprise.
Upon completion of the Apollo and Skylab programs, the center's role in engine testing moved to the next step in space travel - the Space Shuttle. Using its three large Apollo era test stands with thrust capability to 15 million pounds, the center's primary mission is to test and flight certify the Space Shuttle's main engines which power the vehicle during its eight and one-half minutes of flight to orbit. Stennis began testing these main engines in June 1975.
Personnel at the Stennis Space Center also became involved in a broad range of research and technology projects during the decade following Apollo, including the development of remote sensing technology, Earth sciences research, associated data systems development, and technology transfer. Because of this involvement, the states of Mississippi and Louisiana established technology transfer offices at Stennis. As lead center for Commercial Remote Sensing, Stennis works to commercialize NASA's remote sensing applications to improve U.S. competitiveness and the quality of life on Earth.
In addition, Stennis scientists have worked on a wide range of science projects to better understand our planet. These include preserving the tropical rain forests in Central America, studying sea-surface temperatures to determine conditions for red tide outbreaks, analyzing causes of plant stress and monitoring cultural and historical archaeological sites. It is a unique facility in that it also serves as host to 30 other federal and state agencies, private companies and university elements, including the U.S. Navy's world-class Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command.
This history is one of several prepared in the NASA History Series telling the story of NASA centers and facilities.
Mack R. Herring was one of the first employees of the Stennis Space Center and for many years served as the public information officer.
List of Illustrations.
Chapter 1: Decision for Mississippi.
Chapter 2: A Sense of Place.
Chapter 3: The Thorn Before the Rose.
Chapter 4: Temples in the Swamp.
Chapter 5: In Mississippi Mud
Chapter 6: Testing Saturn.
Chapter 7: The Winds of Change.
Chapter 8: Growing Pains.
Chapter 9: Toward Full Utilization.
Chapter 10: In Search of a Role.
Chapter 11: Acceptance and Trust.
Chapter 12: Of Triumph and Tragedy.
Chapter 13: Testing the Way.
Chapter 14: Bigger Dreams.
Chapter 15: For Future Generations.
Chronology of Significant Events.
Charts and Graphs.
About the Author.
The NASA History Series.