Saturday, May 9, 2015

Retro Saturday: JFK Visits White Sands

Click the arrow to watch the film. Video source: Jeff Quitney YouTube channel.

Last week, we visited the White Sands missile range in New Mexico to participate in a Redstone test firing.

This week's Retro Saturday returns to White Sands for President John F. Kennedy's June 5, 1963 visit.

Kennedy made three trips to Cape Canaveral during his administration. His Rice University speech in Houston on September 12, 1962 is remembered for its lyrical rhetoric appealing to national pride for support of the human lunar spaceflight program. Kennedy also visited Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, and the McDonnell Douglas facility in St. Louis during that September 1962 trip.

But his White Sands visit is all but forgotten to history.

White Sands as a military facility long predated NASA's arrival.

The missile range was established in 1941 as a bombing and gunnery range. The first nuclear weapon was detonated at the Trinity Site in 1945. After World War II, Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of German scientists used White Sands to resume testing and development of V-2 missile technology.

NASA arrived at the range in 1963. It was chosen as the site for the Manned Spacecraft Center's Propulsion Systems Development Facility, primarily to serve the Apollo program. (MSC is known today as Johnson Space Center.)

Kennedy witnessed demonstration launches of eight different Army missile systems.

Today the NASA faciilty is known as the White Sands Test Facility.

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