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Johnson Space Center

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Johnson Space Center

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center

Aerial view of JSC in 1989
Agency overview
Formed November 1, 1961 (1961-11-01)[1]
Preceding Agency Space Task Group
Jurisdiction U.S. federal government
Headquarters Houston, Texas, U.S.
Employees 3,200 civil service
Agency executive Ellen Ochoa, director
Parent agency NASA
Website JSC home page

The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's center for human spaceflight training, research, and flight control. The center consists of a complex of one hundred buildings constructed on 1,620 acres (656 ha) in Houston, Texas.[2] Johnson Space Center is home to the United States astronaut corps and is responsible for training astronauts from both the U.S. and its international partners. It is often popularly referred to by its central function during missions, Mission Control.

The center, originally known as the Manned Spacecraft Center, grew out of the Space Task Group formed soon after the creation of NASA to co-ordinate the US manned spaceflight program. A new facility was constructed on land donated by Rice University and opened in 1963. On February 19, 1973, the center was renamed in honor of the late U.S. president and Texas native, Lyndon B. Johnson.[3][4] JSC is one of ten major NASA field centers.


Johnson Space Center has its origins in legislation shepherded to enactment in 1958 by then-U.S. Senator Lyndon Johnson. The Space Task Group (STG) was created on November 5, 1958 with Langley Research Center engineers under the direction of Robert Gilruth, to direct Project Mercury and follow-on manned space programs. The STG originally reported to the Goddard Space Flight Center organization.

Apollo program

After President John F. Kennedy set the goal in 1961 to put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade, this group was assigned the responsibility to lead the Apollo Program, and it became clear Gilruth would need a larger organization, with new test facilities and research laboratories suitable to mount an expedition to the Moon.[5] In August 1961, John F. Parsons, Associate Director of the Ames Research Center, was tasked with heading a site selection team.[6] Requirements for the new site included the availability of water transport and an all-weather airport, proximity to a major telecommunications network, availability of established industrial workers and contractor support, an available supply of water, a mild climate permitting year-round outdoor work, and a culturally attractive community. Houston was initially included because of the proximity to the US Army's 4,700-acre (19 km2) San Jacinto Ordnance Depot located on the Houston Ship Channel, and two nearby universities: the University of Houston and Rice University.[5] The land for the new facility was donated by Rice University and was situated in an undeveloped area 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Houston near Galveston Bay.[7][8]

On September 19, 1961, NASA Administrator James E. Webb announced the conversion of the Space Task Group into the new Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) to be located at the Houston site.[6] Immediately after Webb's announcement, Gilruth and his staff began planning the move from Langley to Houston, using what would grow to 295,996 square feet (27,498.9 m2) of leased office and laboratory space in 11 scattered sites.[6] On November 1, the conversion of the Task Group to MSC became official.[1]

Construction of the center, designed by Charles Luckman, began in April 1962, and Gilruth's new organization was formed and moved to the temporary locations by September.[9] That month, Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University on the US space program. The speech is famous for highlighting the Apollo program, but Kennedy also made reference to the new Center:

What was once the furthest outpost on the old frontier of the West will be the furthest outpost on the new frontier of science and space. Houston, ... with its Manned Spacecraft Center, will become the heart of a large scientific and engineering community. During the next 5 years the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to double the number of scientists and engineers in this area, to increase its outlays for salaries and expenses to $60 million a year; to invest some $200 million in plant and laboratory facilities; and to direct or contract for new space efforts over $1 billion from this Center in this City.
—John F. Kennedy, Speech at Rice University, September 12, 1962[10]

The 1,620-acre (6.6 km2) facility was officially opened for business in September 1963.[11][12] The facility was to be the primary flight control center for all subsequent U.S. manned space missions from Project Gemini forward.[7][8] The MSC's Mission Control Center first became operational for the flight of Gemini 4 in June 1965. On February 19, 1973, MSC was renamed in honor of Lyndon Johnson, with dedication ceremonies on August 27.

In addition to housing NASA's astronaut operations, JSC is also the site of the former Lunar Receiving Laboratory, where the first astronauts returning from the moon were quarantined, and where the majority of lunar samples are stored. The center's Landing and Recovery Division operated MV Retriever in the Gulf of Mexico for Gemini and Apollo astronauts to practice water egress after splashdown.

One of the artifacts displayed at Johnson Space Center is the Saturn V rocket. It is whole, except for the ring between the S-IC and S-II stages, and the fairing between the S-II and S-IVB stages, and made of actual surplus flight-ready articles. It also has real (though incomplete) Apollo command and service modules, intended to fly in the canceled Apollo 19 mission.

Space Shuttle program

In the wake of the January 28, 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan traveled to JSC on January 31 to speak at a memorial service honoring the astronauts. It was attended by 6,000 NASA employees and 4,000 guests, as well as by the families of the crew. During the ceremony, an Air Force band led the singing of "God Bless America" as NASA T-38 Talon supersonic jets flew directly over the scene in the traditional missing-man formation. All activities were broadcast live by the national television and radio networks.

A similar memorial service was held at the Johnson Space Center on February 4, 2003 for the astronauts who perished in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster three days before, which was attended by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. Although that service was broadcast live by the national television and radio networks, it was mainly for the NASA family and for the families of the astronauts; the service that was for the nation was the one Vice-President Richard Cheney and his wife, Lynne led at Washington National Cathedral two days later.[13]

On September 13, 2008 Hurricane Ike hit Galveston as a Category 2 hurricane and caused minor damage to the Mission Control Center and other buildings at JSC.[14] The storm damaged the roofs of several hangars for the T-38 Talons at Ellington Field.[14]

2007 hostage taking

On April 20, 2007 a hostage situation developed in Building 44, the Communication and Tracking Development Laboratory where a gunman killed one person, injured another, and took a hostage for over three hours until committing suicide.


The Johnson Space Center is home to Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center (MCC-H), the NASA control center that coordinates and monitors all human spaceflight for the United States. MCC-H directs all Space Shuttle missions and activities aboard the International Space Station. The Apollo Mission Control Center, a National Historic Landmark, is in Building 30. From the moment a manned spacecraft clears its launch tower until it lands back on Earth, it is in the hands of Mission Control. The MCC houses several Flight Control Rooms, from which flight controllers coordinate and monitor the spaceflights. The rooms have many computer resources to monitor, command and communicate with spacecraft. When a mission is underway the rooms are staffed around the clock, usually in three shifts.

JSC handles most of the planning and training of the US astronaut corps and houses training facilities such as the Sonny Carter Training Facility and the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, a critical component in training astronauts for spacewalks. The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory provides a controlled neutral buoyancy environment—a very large pool containing about 6.2 million US gallons (23,000 m³) of water where astronauts train to practice extra-vehicular activity tasks while simulating zero-g conditions.[15][16] The facility provides pre-flight training in becoming familiar with crew activities and with the dynamics of body motion under weightless conditions.[17]

Building 31-N houses the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility, which stores, analyzes, and processes most of the samples returned from the moon during the Apollo program.

The center is also responsible for direction of operations at White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, which serves as a backup Shuttle landing site and would be the coordinating facility for the Constellation program, which was planned to replace the Space Shuttle program after 2010.[2]

The visitor center has been the adjacent Space Center Houston since 1994; JSC Building 2 previously housed the visitor center.

The Johnson Space Center Heliport (FAA LID: 72TX) is located on the campus.[18]

Personnel and training

Approximately 3,200 civil servants, including 110 astronauts, are employed at Johnson Space Center. The bulk of the workforce are the over 15,000 contractors. Over 15 contracting firms work at JSC; the largest is the United Space Alliance, which accounts for about 40 percent of the JSC employees. As of January 2013 the center's eleventh director is former astronaut Ellen Ochoa,[19] the first being Robert Gilruth.

NASA's astronaut training is conducted at the Johnson Space Center. Astronaut candidates receive training on shuttle systems and in the basic sciences which include mathematics, guidance and navigation, oceanography, orbital dynamics, astronomy, and physics.[17] Candidates are required to complete military water survival prior to beginning their flying instruction. Candidates are also required to become SCUBA qualified for extravehicular training and are required to pass a swimming test.[20][21] EVA training is conducted at the Sonny Carter Training Facility. Candidates are also trained to deal with emergencies associated with hyperbaric and hypobaric atmospheric pressures and are given exposure to the microgravity of space flight.[17] Candidates maintain their flying proficiency by flying 15 hours per month in NASA's fleet of T-38 jets based at nearby Ellington Field.

Additionally, candidates practice Orbiter landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft.[17]

The astronauts begin their formal training program during their year of candidate training by reading manuals and by taking computer-based training lessons on the various Orbiter systems. The training process includes practice with the single systems trainer where the astronauts are trained to operate each Orbiter system and to recognize malfunctions and perform corrective actions.

Following SST training, the astronauts begin training in the Shuttle Mission Simulators (SMSs). The SMS provides training of shuttle vehicle operations and systems tasks associated with the major flight phases. Astronauts begin their training in the SMS using training software until they are assigned to a particular mission. Astronauts also train with the flight controllers in the Mission Control Center. The SMS and MCC are linked by computer in the same way the Orbiter and MCC are linked during an actual mission.


Johnson Space Center leads NASA’s flight-related scientific and medical research programs. Technologies developed for spaceflight are now in use in many areas of medicine, energy, transportation, agriculture, communications and electronics.[22]

The Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) office performs the physical science research at the center. ARES directs and manages all functions and activities of the ARES scientists that perform basic research in earth, planetary, and space sciences. ARES scientists and engineers provide support to the human and robotic spaceflight programs. The responsibilities of ARES also include interaction with the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance and the Human Space Flight Programs.[23]

Johnson Space Center was granted a five-year, $120-million extension of its agreement with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute at Baylor College of Medicine to study the health risks related to long-duration space flight. The extension will allow a continuation of biomedical research in support of a long-term human presence in space started by the institute and NASA's Human Research Program through 2012.[24]

The Prebreathe Reduction Program is a research study program at the JSC that is currently being developed to improve the safety and efficiency of space walks from the International Space Station.[25]

The Overset Grid-Flow software was developed at Johnson Space Center in collaboration with NASA Ames Research Center. The software simulates fluid flow around solid bodies using computational fluid dynamics.

Space Shuttle retirement

JSC put in a bid to display one of the retired Space Shuttle orbiters but was not selected, much to the disappointment of the city of Houston.[26]


See also

Houston portal
Government of the United States portal
Spaceflight portal


External links

  • Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
  • (PDF format) 1993
  • September 2001
  • , official newsletter
  • NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project – Interview with Thomas W. 'Tommy' Holloway
  • , a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan
  • Travel Itinerary
  • Mission Control Archive Footage

Template:Lyndon B. Johnson

Coordinates: 29°33′47″N 95°05′28″W / 29.563°N 95.091°W / 29.563; -95.091

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