‘Moon’ is Born: The Story of Project Vanguard

This 1957 newsreel outlined the goals of the Vanguard Program. Vanguard’s primary objective was to launch a rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral that was designed to put a satellite into orbit.

Courtesy of the National Archives

In 1946, Pentagon officials anointed east Florida’s Cape Canaveral as the headquarters of the military’s missile test program and, later, spacecraft launches. In the early years, Cape Canaveral’s launch pads were little more than concrete squares, but by the late 1950s, thousands of engineers and workers had relocated to Florida’s Space Coast and built state-of-the-art facilities. N.A.S.A. was created in 1958 and American astronauts walked on the moon in 1969 for the first time.

Three Fast Florida Facts

  1. The first unmanned Vanguard rocket exploded at liftoff, garnering the event the nickname “Flopnick,” but later launches were successful.
  2. The Apollo Program was funded and fast-tracked at the behest of U.S. President John F. Kennedy after the Soviet Union sent Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961, and brought him back alive.
  3. Space Coast construction crews erected the largest building in the world to house, service, and access Saturn rockets. The building covered eight acres and was tall enough to store 364-foot rockets.