Looking Back,Moving Ahead
with Florida’s Space Industry
By Lyle Smith
It was audacious. It was inspiring. Considering where we stood technologically in 1961 in the post-Sputnik years, it was probably even borderline ridiculous. But no one more keenly understands the effects this speech had on the nation, a burgeoning space industry, and on the communities and supporting careers, than the thousands of stargazing residents in Central Florida and, especially, the Space Coast.
On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy stood in front of a crowd at Rice University in Texas and told the nation we soon would be space travelers. And just eight years later, we had made it there. By 1981, we were shuttling back and forth regularly in space. By 2011, we had entered a new research and development stage as private industry was building new infrastructure designed to partner with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for even more audacious ambitions in space.
Some of those ambitions are creating more excitement and opportunity in Florida than ever before. Reusable vehicles to optimize investment in hardware; mining projects that will likely be incredibly lucrative and will alleviate the constant draining of earthbound resources; not to mention revisiting the moon or exploring out into the depths of our own solar system – destination: Mars and beyond. The former Obama administration even coined a phrase – the “Stretch Goal,” or exploration of the entire solar system by the end of the century.
Maintaining Our Global Position
“In the 1950’s and ‘60s the Cape is where the federal government chose to establish America’s gateway to space,” said Frank DiBello, CEO of Space Florida. “Regardless of vehicle or destination in the future, the Cape Canaveral Spaceport should be the world’s first choice for the manufacturing of space systems, launch operations, and now, landing. Our future is to be the premier site for enabling global space commerce.”
NASA was founded by an Act of Congress and began operation on Oct. 1, 1958. Despite its dependence on federal funding and vulnerability to shifting political and economic sands, the agency has continued to accomplish globally inspiring advances in space and technological exploration and innovation. In fact, at least 1,800 technologies developed for the space program, or adapted from the space program, are used daily by professionals and residents around the globe.
Taking the Long View
Leadership has adopted a “long game” approach to the landscape that is changing from federally managed to consumer-friendly. “We’re really in a good position to respond to any changes on the horizon should any new (presidential) administration want to have an impact on NASA and our position of leadership in space,” said Dale Ketcham, Space Florida’s chief of strategic alliances.