Slowly Crumbling, NASA Landmarks May Face the Bulldozer

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Feb. 27 — In February 1962, it was the hub of the space program, the center where controllers counted down and then watched tensely from their consoles as John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth.

Today the Mercury Control Center stands empty and all but abandoned, half hidden by thick Florida vegetation. Its 10-foot-wide NASA emblem, warped by high winds, flaps even in a light breeze. A trash can on the floor of the hollow control room seems to be the only barrier against rain seeping through the crumbling ceiling.

And now the 45-year-old center may be slated for demolition, one of 12 sites and landmarks that the space agency says it may tear down to save money.

Situated on Air Force property, the control center, where NASA directed the flights of unmanned and manned space capsules from 1960 to 1965, is off limits to the public except for some tours.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But Mario Busacca, federal preservation officer for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center here, said that as the agency prepared to replace the space shuttle with a safer vehicle and to return astronauts to the Moon, it needed to rid itself of deteriorated or useless sites, the sooner the better. He emphasized, however, that no decision had been made about the Mercury Control.

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