On November 9, 1967, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully launched Apollo 4 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida for an earth orbital mission. The event marked the first unmanned test flight of the Saturn V launch vehicle. This NASA government film not only captures the launch of Apollo 4—including footage shot from the rocket as it blasts into space—but also surveys the progress made during the second half of 1967 to prepare for a future manned lunar landing. Paying particular attention to operations at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston (now known as Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center), the film documents astronaut training exercises, such as the use of Command Module and Docking Simulators; flammability studies by engineers; and Lunar Receiving Laboratory experiments.
As the scope of the American space program grew, NASA's Space Task Group realized it would need to expand into its own facility if it were to successfully land a man on the Moon. In 1961, the agency's selection team chose a 1,000-acre cow pasture in Houston, Texas, as the proposed center's location site, owing to its access to water transport and commercial jet service, moderate climate, and proximity to Rice University. In September 1963, the facility opened as the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC).
The Center became the focal point of NASA's manned spaceflight program, developing spacecraft for Projects Gemini and Apollo, selecting and training astronauts, and operating the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. Beginning with Gemini 4 in June 1965, MSC's Mission Control Center also took over flight control duties from the Mercury Control Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As a result, the facility managed all subsequent manned space missions, including those related to Projects Gemini and Apollo, the Apollo Applications Program, the Space Shuttle Orbiters, and the International Space Station.
In 1973, the MSC was renamed in honor of the late President and Texas native Lyndon B. Johnson. (As Senate Majority Leader, Johnson sponsored the 1958 legislation that established NASA.) The Center continues to lead NASA's efforts in space exploration, training both American and international astronauts, managing missions to and from the International Space Station, and operating scientific and medical research programs.