Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Cape Canaveral is a strip of land in Brevard County, Florida, near the center of the Atlantic coast. It is part of Merritt Island, in a region known as the Space Coast, and is the site of the Kennedy Space Center, and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Most United States spacecraft are launched from either one of these sites.
From 1963 - 1973 it was called Cape Kennedy: President John F. Kennedy was an enthusiastic backer of the space program, and after his assassination in 1963, his widow Jacqueline Kennedy suggested to President Lyndon Johnson that renaming the Cape Canaveral space facility would be an appropriate memorial. However, Johnson recommended the renaming not just of the facility, but of the entire cape. Accordingly, Cape Canaveral was renamed Cape Kennedy.
Although the name change was approved by the United States Board on Geographic Names of the Interior Department in 1964, it was not popular in Florida and in 1973 the state passed a law restoring the former 400-year-old name and the Board went along. The people of the city of Cape Canaveral, Florida had particularly pressed to change it back. The Kennedy family issued a letter stating they "understood the decision." The space center retains the name Kennedy.
In addition to the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral is the site of an air force base, a nineteenth-century lighthouse, and the city of Cape Canaveral.
The first rocket launch from the Cape was Bumper 8 from Launch Pad 3 on 24 July, 1950. On February 6, 1959 the first successful test firing of a Titan intercontinental ballistic missile was accomplished here. All manned US spaceflights have launched from Cape Canaveral.
Cape Canaveral was chosen for rocket launches to take advantage of the earth's rotation. At the equator, the centrifugal force of earth's rotation is the maximum. The direction of earth's rotation is such that to take advantage of the rotation, rockets should be launched eastward. It is also highly desirable to have the downrange area sparsely populated, ideally an ocean, in case of accidents. Thus rockets should be launched from a continent's east coast as close to the equator as possible. For the United States, Florida is the most southerly east coast location.
The name "Canaveral" ("Caņaveral" in Spanish) was given to the area by Spanish explorers, and it literally means "canebrake." It can be interpreted as "Cape of Canes."
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