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.