Florida Residents Suffer Loss Of Shuttle Program, California Benefits
Lee Rannals for RedOrbit.com
As the economy seems to be on the upswing, and the stock market rises to its highest point since 2008, one area in the U.S. has been fighting its own unemployment battle.
Last year, president Barack Obama’s plan to end the space shuttle program to give companies the chance to send astronauts and tourists to low-orbit space took its first step, as space shuttle Atlantis landed its last mission in July last year.
Now, companies are scouring to try and get their spacecrafts ready for NASA’s use, and try to end the United States space program’s dependence on Russia for travel to the International Space Station.
From a third-party’s point-of-view, the transition seems rather smooth, considering that astronauts could be flying aboard commercial space flights as early as 2013. However, people in Brevard County, Florida are feeling jaded and unimpressed at the Obama administration’s plan to modernize U.S. space travel.
This Florida area was supposed to reap the reward of President Bush’s proposed Constellation program. This program would focus NASA’s attention on bringing astronauts back to exploring places like the moon or Mars.
However, budget cuts and political debate has left this program merely as just a dream, and landed 7,000 people in Brevard County without jobs.
With presidential elections lurching around the corner, residents in Brevard County are reminded of what President Obama said to them three months before his election on August 2, 2008:
“I´m gonna ensure that our space program doesn´t suffer when the shuttle goes out of service by making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the shuttle is retired because we can´t afford to lose their expertise.”
The false promises of being able to sustain jobs after decades of job security was an easy way to make the retirement of the space shuttle program go from an abrupt stop, to a bittersweet transition. Instead, a county known for being able to manufacture parts to send a man 17,000 miles per hour into space is left with an 11 percent unemployment rate.
The brutal force felt in Brevard County as a result of the space shuttle retirements has been a hot topic, and even was made into a 60 Minutes segment called “Hard Landing.”
However, the story left out of this segment was the positive impact commercial space programs have made in other places in America.
SpaceX, one of the commercial space programs that have received contracts from NASA, has about 200 jobs listed on its website, mostly in Hawthorne, California, and others in Texas and Florida.
The unemployment rate in Hawthorne, California as of September 2011 is 15.80 percent, over six percent higher than the U.S. unemployment rate and 4 percent higher than Brevard County.
Las Cruces, New Mexico is also getting to reap the benefits of the future of space travel. Virgin Galactic, which has a NASA contract for research missions, is basing its operations in New Mexico and bringing in jobs to a state that has not been known to host space operations, aside from Roswell’s mythical UFO activity.
There are also eight U.S. companies that have 15 launch vehicles for spaceflight either in the development stage or proposal stage. Five U.S. companies are actively working on creating a sustainable space tourism vehicle, not to mention the manufacturers that help supply parts to spaceliner companies like Virgin Galactic and RocketShip Tours.
So, it is truly tragic the effect the space shuttle retirement has had on Brevard County. But, as holes leave some in Florida jobless, others in California have benefited.