NA SA A's Ia)a#ed Spacecrat Ceiter
at Iiustoii Zexas*
STEPHEN B. OATES
ON SEPTEMBER 19, 1961, JAMES E. WEBB OF THE NATIONAL
Aeronautics and Space Administration made an an-
nouncement at the nation's capital that carried consid-
erable import for Houston, Texas. NASA, Webb said, had selected
Houston over some twenty other cities as the site for a new
manned spacecraft center that would be the command post for
the nation's space program. NASA would build the center on a
little-known tract of land bordering Clear Lake, some twenty-two
miles southeast of downtown Houston, and would include in the
facility a multi-million-dollar flight control headquarters to direct
Project Apollo-a three-man, roundtrip rocket flight to the moon,
scheduled for around 1970.
For the Houston area, already the site of a vast oil and petro-
chemical industry-valued, some said, at $3 billionl-NASA's
announcement portended new dimensions in scientific and tech-
nological growth. "This Is Wonderful News," headlined a Hous-
ton Magazine feature story. The space center would, it believed,
start an economic boom comparable to that associated with the
opening of the ship channel back in 1915." Businesmen, anticipat-
ing new developments in the technical commercial areas, were
especially elated over NASA's choice, and the Chamber of Com-
merce went so far as to proclaim it "the most significant single
*The author would like to thank H. Bailey Carroll for the idea of this article
and the Department of Research in Texas History of the University of Texas for
financial assistance in the research stages. The author is also indebted to Charles
C. Alexander of the University of Houston who read the manuscript and offered
helpful suggestions, and to James M. Grimwood of the Manned Spacecraft Center
who supplied much essential information about the center's operations.
1Houston Magazine (September, 1962), 28. See also United Press International
in Dallas Herald, September 19g, 1961, for a news release of Webb's announcement
and for a discussion of how Houston's industry influenced NASA's decision.
2Ibid. (October, 1961), 68.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 67, July 1963 - April, 1964. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101197/. Accessed April 23, 2014.