Cabana: KSC Reaches 50th Anniversary Milestone

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BREVARD COUNTY • KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA – Fifty years after NASA established a spaceport to launch men to the moon and probes to explore the far reaches of our solar system, Kennedy Space Center’s mission has not wavered.

Robert D. Cabana is the director of the Kennedy Space Center (Image courtesy Kennedy Space Center)

This week, our team is celebrating five decades of extraordinary accomplishments and unprecedented abilities. We’re also gearing up for a vibrant future full of processing, testing and launching the most complex machines ever built.

When the spaceport commenced on July 1, 1962, as the Launch Operations Center, its founders knew that the complex would be a national resource capable of supporting a wide array of vehicles.

During this decade, we’re going back to those roots with the help of the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program by revamping existing infrastructure and facilities to give us the flexibility to host a variety of vehicles as we transition to the launch complex of the future.

Greater Challenges Ahead

As our namesake, President Kennedy, stated many years ago when he challenged the country to send astronauts to the lunar surface, this business is hard.

John F. Kennedy

But this team was up to the challenge then, and we will rise above it again as we reach even greater heights in the years ahead.

We have learned so much about exploring new horizons. In our endeavors, we’ve also come to realize that there is so much out there for us to discover.

I often tell my team that Kennedy is the linchpin to NASA’s new undertakings because we are, and always have been, the nation’s premier launch site. This complex still is a national resource, but it will take the continued support of this community to take bold new steps in space.

Spurring Innovation

It was difficult to say farewell to our beloved space shuttles and the many folks who dedicated their lives to that phenomenal program.

With space shuttle Atlantis' 25-year spaceflight career now in the history books, its next mission -- to inform and inspire generations of visitors to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. This initial design concept for the new exhibit showcases Atlantis as though it were in flight. (Artist rendering courtesy of PGAV Destinations for Delaware North Parks & Resorts)

I hope that each one of you gets the opportunity to visit the shuttle Atlantis once it’s on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

It might help you understand the sheer magnitude of what can be accomplished when you combine tenacity with innovative thinking and the ability to adapt.

The agency recently entrusted us with its newest human spaceflight program, a first for the center.

In partnership with the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Commercial Crew Program at Kennedy is spurring the innovation and development of commercial spacecraft and launch vehicles to transport our astronauts to and from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

We’ll also be the starting point for NASA’s Orion crew capsule and Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket, which will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Our Launch Services Program is as busy as ever, too, gearing up for at least 25 missions to study places, such as Mars, Pluto and our sun.

It’s hard to convey everything that our center is working on right now, but rest assured we are busier than ever. Our lights are still on, our doors are still open and the list of extraordinary things we plan to accomplish in this lifetime is long.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Robert D. Cabana is the tenth director of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida where he manages a team of approximately 8,600 civil service and contractor employees. Prior to his appointment to Kennedy in October 2008, the former space shuttle astronaut served as the director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

Originally from Minneapolis, Minn., Cabana graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy in 1971, with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and has logged more than 7,000 hours in 36 different aircraft.

Cabana was selected as an astronaut candidate in June of 1985, completing his training in 1986. He has flown four space shuttle missions serving as the pilot of Discovery on STS-41 in October 1990, the pilot of Discovery on STS-53 in December 1992, the commander of Columbia on STS-65 in July 1994, and the commander of Endeavour on STS-88, the first space station assembly mission, in December 1998.

Before being named the director of Stennis Space Center in October 2007, Cabana served as deputy director of NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

In addition to his duties as an astronaut, Cabana’s NASA experience includes assignments as deputy chief, Aircraft Operations Division; chief, NASA Astronaut Office; manager, International Operations, International Space Station Program; director, NASA Human Space Flight Program in Russia; deputy, International Space Station Program; and director, Flight Crew Operations.

He is married to the former Nancy Joan Shimer of Cortland, N.Y. They have three children, two sons and a daughter.