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NASA renaming historic Florida facility for first moonwalker Neil Armstrong

A new sign outside the entrance to the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida reveals the facility's new namesake, Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong, ahead of a scheduled July 21, 2014 renaming ceremony. (collectSPACE)
July 7, 2014

— The NASA building where Neil Armstrong stayed — and his lunar landing spacecraft was readied — before launching to the moon 45 years ago this month is being renamed for the late astronaut.

The historic Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center will be retitled for the first man to walk on the moon during a July 21 ceremony to be held at the Florida spaceport. Armstrong's Apollo 11 crew mates Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins will be joined at the ceremony by NASA administrator Charles Bolden and the center's director Robert Cabana to deliver remarks, NASA announced on Monday (July 7).

Members of Armstrong's family are expected to attend the event as well.

The 9 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) ceremony will not be open to the public, but will be broadcast live on NASA's television channel and streamed through the agency's website.

Neil Armstrong (right), seen on July 16, 1969, leads his Apollo 11 crewmates out of the Operations and Checkout Building as they leave to launch on mankind's first moon landing mission. (NASA)

Neil Armstrong, who died in August 2012, famously made mankind's first "small step" onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. For more than two hours, Armstrong and Aldrin explored their landing site, named Tranquility Base, before leaving the moon the next day and returning to Earth with Collins, who had remained in lunar orbit.

Before their launch from Earth five days earlier on July 16, the astronauts were housed in the crew quarters located in the five-story-tall Operations and Checkout Building. The facility, which was originally titled the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building when it opened in 1964, also included the high bay where the Apollo command, service and lunar modules were tested and prepared for launch prior to their being stacked atop the Saturn V rocket.

The O&C Building's crew quarters were in use throughout the Apollo program and for the subsequent Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and space shuttle flights. In the early 1980s, the facility was used to support the European-built Spacelab modules that flew on the shuttle.

The soon-to-be Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building is in use today to process and assemble NASA's Orion spacecraft as the agency prepares to embark on its next "giant leap" in space exploration, sending astronaut crews to an asteroid and Mars. The facility is, at present, housing the unmanned Orion capsule that will launch this December on NASA's Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1).

Inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, the Exploration Flight Test-1 Orion crew module is stacked on its service module. (NASA/Kim Shiflett)

The O&C is the second NASA facility to be renamed for the first moonwalker. Earlier this year, the space agency's premiere flight research center in southern California was retitled the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center (the center had been formerly named after aeronautics pioneer Hugh Dryden).

The U.S. Navy also remembered Armstrong this year with the christening of an oceanographic research ship.

Armstrong, who was selected with NASA's second group of astronauts in 1962, first flew in space as the command pilot of the Gemini 8 mission in March 1966. Three years later, as commander of Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, Armstrong gained the distinction of being the first man to land a craft on the moon and first to step on its surface.

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