After being closed for months due to COVID-19, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center is fully open with a glistening new rocket on display in the rocket garden.
“That’s a real rocket, it could have flown in space but instead it’s on its second career,” KSC Director Bob Cabana said at ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday morning. “It’s now on a mission of inspiration for future generations.”
The modern addition to the garden of historic rockets is United Launch Alliance’s powerful Delta II rocket which flew its last mission in 2018, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.
“When that thing lit, it shot off like a bottle rocket to space. It was truly amazing,” said ULA’s Director of Launch Operations, Ron Fortson, recalling the first time he worked on a Delta II launch.
The Delta II was a busy rocket over its nearly 30-year life flying 155 times. One of its biggest contributions to humanity was the launching of the Global Positioning System satellites for the Air Force.
Nearly four billion people a day rely on GPS technology for everything from navigating in a car to using bank ATMS and credit card machines at gas pumps.
GPS also transformed military operations beginning with Desert Storm. Troops use GPS on land, sea and in the air to provide precision all weather guidance and timing for aircraft ships, tanks and smart-bombs.
The Delta II also carried numerous science missions for NASA. Over the years, the rocket sent eight spacecraft to Mars including the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Pathfinder, Mars Climate Orbiter, Mars Polar Lander, 2001 Mars Odyssey, Mars exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity and the Mars Phoenix lander.