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Resource Analysis

Alternatives and Impacts




Man in Space
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The resources that supported the early American space program are as diverse as the technological and engineering innovations of the 20th century. The program and its most widely recognized accomplishment of landing men on the moon grew out of a thirst for exploration as well as a healthy spirit of competition. But even as the world paid homage to the first manned moon landing in 1969, new goals for the space program were being set. In 1969 a presidential task force outlined goals to be reached by the beginning of the 21st century, including the launching of planetary probes, the development of a reusable spacecraft and a permanent space station, and the establishment of a series of satellites for improved communication and scientific investigation of earth. As the nation moved on to these new challenges, the vast array of launch complexes and research, testing, and training sites that were critical to early space flight were abandoned or modified to meet changing needs.

Apollo 11

During the 1970s the abandoned facilities and equipment began to decay or rust away, and many of the structures were dismantled and salvaged to be used in new programs. Fortunately, during this period the Smithsonian Institution commenced a project that culminated in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., the repository for many of the space and rocket artifacts dating from the years of rocketry experiments to the present. Visitor centers were also established at major installations to exhibit the rocketry and hardware of the "space race" days. Over the years visitor centers and other museums across the country have preserved thousands of space artifacts, and their efforts have been enthusiastically received. However, despite these preservation efforts, many significant resources are in danger of being lost and need to be preserved. These resources also possess tremendous interpretive and educational potential that is not being fully realized. Most interpretive programs and media focus on present and future space efforts and do not highlight earlier achievements. The resources remaining from the early American space program can provide a dramatic vehicle for discovering this exciting aspect of our history and for stimulating interest in the space-related sciences.

John Glenn

It was the need to preserve and interpret the most significant sites and events remaining from the early American space program that led Congress to pass Public Law 96-344 in 1980. Section 18 of that law directed the secretary of the interior, in consultation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Defense, and other concerned entities, to conduct a study of the sites and events associated with the theme Man in Space. The purpose of the study, as defined by PL 96-344, was to "identify the possible locations, components, and features of a new unit of the national park system commemorative to this theme, with special emphasis to be placed on the internationally historic event of the first human contact with the surface of the moon." The legislation further directed that the study investigate methods for safeguarding identified locations, structures, and instrumentation features and for displaying and interpreting them to the visiting public. The governmental entities that manage these locations, structures, and features were requested to preserve them from destruction or change insofar as possible during the study and the congressional review period.

In 1981 the National Park Service, in consultation with NASA and the U.S. Air Force, prepared the Reconnaissance Survey, Man in Space. The survey documented the preliminary findings concerning the historic resources associated with the early American space program (with emphasis on the first moon landing), provided an overview of the program, described the primary sites and installations, and indicated the significance and condition of those sites and installations. It determined that the sites remaining from the early manned space program were nationally significant and could make an important contribution in illustrating the Man in Space theme--a theme that was poorly represented in the national park system (see appendix D for a discussion of national park system theme representation). The survey recommended two additional studies: a national historic landmark theme study, and a study of alternatives involving the private and public entities that would contribute to preservation, use, and overall management of the sites.

The "National Historic Landmark Theme Study (Phases I and II)" was completed in 1984. It inventoried and evaluated more than 300 resources in relationship to the Man in Space theme. The study recommended 25 of the sites for designation as national historic landmarks because of their national significance. These sites represent the best and most important remaining examples of the technology needed to land a man on the moon and to explore the earth, planets, and solar system.


In March 1983 the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs sent a letter to the secretary of the interior requesting that the Park Service initiate the study of alternatives. Congress had previously requested that this study contain a discussion of practical preservation methodologies and action alternatives for preserving and interpreting resources determined to be significant. The study of alternatives began in October 1984 with orientation sessions involving the Park Service, NASA, the Air Force, the Army, and the Smithsonian Institution. In addition, the study team visited the White Sands Missile Range, the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center, the Marshall Space Flight Center, and the Alabama Space and Rocket Center. However, in December 1984 the study of alternatives was postponed pending the designation of the national historic landmark sites.

In August 1986 the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs requested that the study of alternatives be completed, as outlined in PL 96-344 and their 1983 letter to the secretary of the interior, and that recommendations for preservation, display, and interpretation of candidate structures be made to their committee. They asked that the candidate structures be prioritized taking into account historic significance, ease of public access, amount of current visitation, and immediate and long-term maintenance costs. In addition, they requested that the Park Service work with the Air Force to establish alternatives to dismantling the launch complex 26 service structure at Cape Canaveral and study possibilities and alternatives to support a private fund-raising campaign for reassembly of the Apollo launch tower at the Kennedy Space Center.

In October 1986 the secretary of the interior responded to the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs request, stating that the Park Service would proceed immediately with the Man in Space study of alternatives.

Continued Continued


Last Modified: Wed, Nov 29 2000 10:00:00 am PDT

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