Stennis Center Has A Birthday

NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center celebrates its 40th anniversary this month. Four decades ago, NASA chose the swampy site in Hancock County to build the nation's lead rocket test facility. Since then, Stennis has evolved into a world-class research facility where more than 30 government agencies and private partners oversee programs involving space exploration, weather and national defense.

In the early 1970s, the center's role in propulsion testing shifted to America's next step in space travel, the Space Shuttle. Its mission for the past 25 years has been testing the engines that power the shuttle during its eight-and-a-half-minute flight into orbit. The U.S. defense, commerce, transportation and interior departments, the Environmental Protection Agency, several universities and the states of Louisiana and Mississippi have offices for research and other activities.

Stennis has the largest number of oceanographers in one place than anywhere else in the world. The center also plays a vital role in the economic health of South Mississippi. It employs four-thousand-600 people and attracts companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin to a region better-known for casino gambling. The center's acting director, Mark Craig, says the fact that the agencies operate together is a model that's recognized around the nation.