Looking back, 60 years of WKMG coverage of Space Coast, launch history

Archive video of President Kennedy’s moon shot address, launches

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – From its infancy to today, we've all watched the rise of the Space Coast and its historic role in American space exploration, and News 6, first as WDBO-TV and now WKMG, has been there to capture each step, including the first step on the moon.

The station first signed on in 1954 and found its stride as the space race was heating up.

News 6's earliest recovered coverage of the race to space, when the Discoverer 9 was launched on February 4, 1960. The rocket was unsuccessful and shut down after only 20 seconds of operation.

On May 25, 1961, while speaking to Congress and the nation, President John F. Kennedy spoke of the future of space.

"I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth," he said.

Eight years later, the U.S. would successfully land humans on the moon.

John Glenn and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson ride in a parade through Cocoa Beach, Florida, celebrating Glenn's Friendship 7 space flight, February 23, 1962.

As more and more resources were moved to the Space Coast, News 6 separated itself from other media organizations, understanding where the next stage of space could go.

"With the recent successful Telstar satellite launch, WDBO TV was the only Florida station there to report it," the anchor said. "We are the first station in the world to show these films. It's the kind of record we are proud of here at Channel 6 News."

Successful launch of Telstar Satellite on July 10, 1962. WBDO TV was the only the Florida station there to report it and was the first station in the world to show these kinds of films.

On March 23, 1965, an astronaut with close ties to Orlando blasted off from Cape Kennedy, as it was once called, in Gemini 3. When astronaut John Young returned home, the community welcomed him as a hero.

"It's wonderful, wonderful to be back home in Orlando," he said in front of a packed crowd.

1969 Apollo 10 launch at Cape Kennedy, where an estimated 1 million people watched as 3 astronauts orbited the moon, in a "dress rehearsal" for the for the first moon landing

For the Apollo 10 mission, an estimated 1 million people traveled to the Space Coast to watch the launch in person.

From there, we watched as those who dared to dream achieved unbelievable heights, including Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in 1969 as part of the Apollo 11 mission.

This compilation was produced in 1999, as part of Channel 6's 45th Anniversary celebration, featuring longtime anchors Ben Aycrigg and David Wittman.

On more than one occasion, those dreams ended in tragedy, including when Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986 and Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated in 2003.

Yet, how we handle loss makes a big difference as the Space Coast has evolved into the epicenter of private space programs.

News 6 continues to broadcast launches from Cape Canaveral, oftentimes live on the air and online.

As we look to the future of space flight, it seems only fitting that we remember the words from the past, as spoken by longtime reporter and anchor Ben Aycrigg.

"It's an age of miracles we live in, an age that keeps on beginning here at Cape Canaveral," Aycrigg said.

Those words that still apply, nearly 60 years later.

This story is part of ClickOrlando.com and News 6's Apollo 11 50th anniversary special. Visit ClickOrlando.com/space for more coverage.

About the Author:

It has been an absolute pleasure for Clay LePard living and working in Orlando since he joined News 6 in July 2017. Previously, Clay worked at WNEP TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he brought viewers along to witness everything from unprecedented access to the Tobyhanna Army Depot to an interview with convicted double-murderer Hugo Selenski.