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Resource Description

Resource Analysis

Alternatives and Impacts




Man in Space
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Public Law 96-344 in 1980 directed the secretary of the interior to conduct a study of locations and events associated with the historical theme of Man in Space. It also directed that the study identify possible locations, components, and features of a new unit of the national park system commemorative of this theme, with emphasis on the internationally historic event of the first human contact with the moon. This Study of Alternatives responds to the request from Congress for a report describing potential actions to safeguard from change the identified locations, components, and features and to display and interpret them for visitor appreciation.


In 1981 the National Park Service prepared a reconnaissance survey of the sites associated with the early American space program, and in 1984 it completed a national historic landmark theme study. These studies identified 25 national historic landmarks and one nationally significant site listed on the National Register of Historic Places that best illustrate the Man in Space theme. These are the sites of critical breakthroughs in overcoming barriers to spaceflight and of significant events leading to the first landing of a man on the moon. The theme represented by these sites starts in 1915 with the formal beginnings of America's technological base for flight, extends to 1972 with the conclusion of man's successful exploration of the moon, and includes the unmanned scientific exploration of the earth, planets, and solar system.

The Man in Space sites include wind tunnels, rocket engine and development test facilities, launch complexes, training facilities, spacecraft and hardware test facilities, mission control and tracking centers, and other support facilities throughout the United States. In addition to these 26 sites, the study discusses the 18 installations that played an important role in the early American space program and/or have value for interpreting the history of the program to the public. Other space museums and facilities that provide interpretive and educational opportunities related to the exploration of space are also briefly described.


The primary concern of this study is how best to tell the overall Man in Space story through interpretation and preservation of the 26 Man in Space sites. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, and Smithsonian Institution, which are responsible for these sites, have raised a number of related concerns:

  1. management arrangements to effectively protect significant resources while minimizing potential conflicts with other agency programs,

  2. funding to support interpretation and preservation of Man in Space sites,

  3. provision of interpretation and visitor use, recognizing the need to maintain security and safety,

  4. definitions of preservation to allow for reasonable modifications to accommodate technological changes or demolition after adequate documentation, and

  5. requirements for compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act without unnecessary delays in implementing new missions and projects.

The House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs specifically requested that this study examine alternatives for protecting the launch complex 26 service structure at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Apollo launch tower at the Kennedy Space Center. Both of these structures are in immediate danger of being demolished or scrapped.


One of the requests from Congress was that this study prioritize the 26 Man in Space sites for permanent preservation, display, and interpretation based on historic significance, ease of public access, amount of current visitation, and immediate and long-term costs. The 26 sites have been evaluated and ranked according to their interpretive/visitor use potential and grouped according to their preservation potential. Interpretive/visitor use potential is based on significance in representing the Man in Space theme, accessibility to the public, and amount of current visitation; the site ranking is indicated in table 1 in the "Resource Analysis" section of this report. Preservation potential is based on whether the site is currently being used for agency programs or is no longer in use, degree of threats to the site, amount of remaining historic fabric, and interpretive/visitor use potential. Although all of the 26 sites are nationally significant, they have been placed into one of four groups according to their preservation potential; these groups are also discussed in the "Resource Analysis" section.


Four alternatives have been identified as ways of preserving and managing the 26 sites while providing educational and interpretive opportunities to the public. The report discusses the impacts of these four alternatives on management and funding, interpretation and visitor use, and site preservation. Alternative 1 would allow for each agency to continue managing the resources under current authorities. Interpretation would continue to focus on existing and future programs rather than the Man in Space theme, and resource preservation would probably continue to be a low priority. Alternative 2 would expand the role of each agency in preserving and interpreting the 26 sites. The emphasis would be on interpreting the Man in Space theme through off-site media; visitor access to the sites would not be stressed. Alternative 3 would establish a new foundation or commission to coordinate and direct preservation and interpretive programs for the sites nationwide. More emphasis would be placed on providing on-site interpretation, and site preservation would receive more attention. Alternative 4 envisions a leading role for the National Park Service. Under option A of this alternative an America in Space National Historical Park would be established, focusing on key sites at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center. Other Man in Space sites would become affiliated areas of the national park system. Under option B, all of the 26 sites would become affiliated areas, and the National Park Service would provide interpretive, technical, and funding assistance rather than direct management of the sites.

map of installations and sites
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Last Modified: Wed, Nov 29 2000 10:00:00 am PDT

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