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Cape Canaveral’s history as a space center began in 1949, when the government designated Cape Canaveral as a missile-testing site.
Prior to selecting Cape Canaveral, several missiles were tested in New Mexico. The missile veered off course and ended up over El Paso. Though there were no injuries, there was concern that as areas became more populated, missile testing would have to be done in more remote areas.
Cape Canaveral was chosen not only because it was remote and only barely populated, but because it was right on the water and near the equator, making missile (and later, shuttle) launches easier.
In 1950, the first rocket launch occurred from Cape Canaveral and in 1952, an air base was located there.
In the early 1960s, the government began testing the idea that men could walk on the moon and Cape Canaveral became a center point for the discussions. The government appropriated land on Merritt Island and plans began for the building of a launch pad as well as a module that would take men to the moon and back.
In 1963, President Lyndon Johnson made a request that Cape Canaveral be renamed Cape Kennedy, in honor of slain President John Kennedy, but the effort was defeated and the space center was instead named Kennedy Space Center, but the town of Cape Canaveral and its environs retained the Canaveral name.