Out on the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) three granite markers on the east side of the runway mark the front wheel stop position of each of the last three flights of the space shuttle program. It has been recently announced, however, that runway and its new markers might join the shuttles in history.
Space shuttles Endeavour and Discovery have left for their new homes, making their last trip down the SLF. Atlantis will be the last of the orbiters to leave the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in November but her journey will be a land trip over to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Three granite, engraved, 2.5-inch-thick plaques have been set in place, out of the way of operational aircraft traffic at the side of the runway. A small etched wheel stop marking sits on the centerline of the runway.
A proposal was made in 2011 for a permanent marker on the runway and a project team quickly came up with concepts to begin the process. During a recent tour of the site NASA Test Director Mike Ciannilli stated “One of the concerns we had is that as time goes on, you start losing the desire to preserve your history” making the project even more important to be done in a timely manner.
NASA contacted local Cocoa Florida artist Chad Stout, owner of C Spray Glass Blasting to design, manufacture and install the runway etchings and granite pavers.
“The Shuttle Landing Facility is a location with a very rich history, so we decided to come up with a way to preserve that history, and do it in a way that would last for a very long time,” Ciannilli went on to add. Referring to the plaque locations.
However, what might be in jeopardy is the SLF, as it is no longer needed for any current NASA operations.
Just recently the State of Florida sent a request to NASA to return 150 acres of land north of KSC back to the State as the land is deemed ‘in excess to the needs of the U.S. government.’
As part of the federal government, NASA has a right to use the land under a long- term agreement but if not used it reverts back to the State. Space Florida is looking into the possibility of creating ‘Cape Canaveral Spaceport’ a state-owned commercial complex.
The fate of this historic site is therefore in doubt and whether-or-not the location where numerous successful shuttle missions were concluded will survive – remains to be determined.