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Florida coast roars with space launches as no wind hits

Titusville, Fla. (AP) — Ten years ago, Florida’s Space Coast was in decline.

The space shuttle program has ended, and there has been a constant stream of space enthusiasts filling the rooms of restaurants, hotels and motels in the area during regular astronaut launches.

Kennedy Space Center’s 7,400 furloughed shuttle workers struggled to find work in their fields, and many moved to other states. The county’s unemployment rate soared to nearly 12%, and foreclosures were rampant in the aftermath of the housing crisis that hit Florida more than most states. Miracle City Mall, a once-thriving shopping destination since the Apollo lunar photography in the 1960s, was abandoned in the mid-2010s, closing other stores and restaurants.

“It was devastating. On top of the fact that our country was in recession, we were losing our bread and butter. We were losing our economy,” said Kennedy Space Center. said Daniel Diesel, mayor of Titusville across the Indian River.

Today, the county’s unemployment rate is less than 3%, and the Space Coast is buzzing with jobs and space launches. The first launch of NASA’s New Moon rocket, set for Saturday, was expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors like Ed Mayall. He is more than 4,300 miles (about 6,920 kilometers) from London It moved far away and witnessed its first scrubbed launch attempt on Monday.

“The idea of ​​being able to go to space is very exciting. For myself, with all the commercial programs potentially going on, I just want to live it,” Mayall said. “It’s kind of exciting just to be around.”

While most of the space business in Florida over the last 60 years was organized by NASA and the Air Force, this recent Space Coast revitalization has been driven in the past decade by private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin. I came. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the richest men on the planet. There are now several launches per month along the Space Coast, with SpaceX launching Starlink his internet satellite every few weeks.

Perhaps nothing captures the return of the Space Coast better than Space X’s first astronaut takeoff in spring 2020. This puts Florida’s central coast back in the business of throwing humans into space, the first time a private company has put people into orbit. The effort attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and put an end to NASA’s nine-year launch drought.

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As of last year, Kennedy Space Center had more than 12,300 government employees, private contractors, and other employees working at the spaceport, compared with 15,000 employees in the heyday of the Shuttle program, down to just a few thousand. I’m out of people.

Along the Space Coast, new subdivisions have been granted, new hotels have been built, small manufacturing plants have been built on industrial estates to support the space industry, and the recently opened sparkling outdoor shopping area is on the site of Miracle City Mall. Last year, the Milken Institute ranked the Space Coast metropolitan area as having her second-strongest economy in the United States, using indicators based on employment, wages, and tech growth. Subway’s ranking has risen 47 places from three years ago.

In addition to the growth of commercial space companies, the Space Coast’s economy has diversified over the past decade beyond its traditional reliance on space to include defense contractors, cruise ships, auto parts manufacturing and nature tourism.

“We are growing from so many angles,” the mayor said. “Our economy thrives when the space program succeeds.

He said he was a growing “space kid” familiar with the boom-and-bust nature of the space business since the family moved to the Space Coast in 1965 to help his father get a job on the Apollo program. NASA’s budget from the White House and Congress has had a big impact on life on the Space Coast, he said.

Jessica Costa, owner of C’s Waffles restaurant in Titusville, remembers how quiet the Space Coast has become since the Space Shuttle program ended. Now that rocket launches are happening all the time, she doesn’t take it for granted.

“I’m just happy that it’s growing so fast,” Costa said. I am glad that.”

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Follow Cody Jackson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/thecjacksap

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter. https://twitter.com/MikeSchneider AP

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