Each generation seems to have an event that serves as a defining moment. For many of our parents they remember where they were when the attack on Pearl Harbor was announced. That event galvanized and mobilized a generation and forever defined an era. For Baby Boomers whom I have talked to, that defining yet inspiring moment came when they watched in amazement as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. Gazing at the giant sphere illuminating the evening sky would never be the same because we knew men had actually walked there.
We were exploring “Space…the Final Frontier;” it gave us an expectation of the future, it motivated scientific enquiry and education, and it provided the inspiration which built our community. What is more, many of the technologies that shape our culture and our economy had their genesis in this monumental human endeavor. Unfortunately that visionary leadership that America had is beginning to slip, if not surrendered.
Back in August of 2008, when then Sen. Obama was campaigning for the Presidency, he promised to reduce the gap between the Space Shuttle and the Constellation program. Many saw his promise as being reminiscent of the now famous speech that John F. Kennedy gave in the early 60’s pledging to send men to the moon and safely return them. Now, it seems as though the President’s strategy for “reducing the gap,” is simply jettisoning a program NASA has been working on as the next step in American manned space flight.
How ironic that, while the President wants the government to assume an ever broadening role in what were private markets and industries, he wants the government’s historic role in manned space exploration to be privatized. What is more, many, if not all, are still unclear about what direction we are headed in.
We all consider this area to be a special and a historic place, but never did we make those kinds of statements looking back, but rather forward. Fortunately, the Florida legislature has stood and delivered on its commitment to Florida’s space efforts by funding Space Florida and by working to bring an important jobs bill that includes $3.2 million in state funding for workforce retraining for those in danger of losing their jobs upon the shuttle’s retirement.
It also provides $10 million in financing assistance for two new launch service providers as well as a new payload preparation company at Kennedy Space Center. Also included is a provision that will grant Space Florida needed flexibility to use $10.8 million remaining from a 2008 appropriation, originally allocated for the redevelopment of Launch Complex 36. The remaining funds will be used to continue to increase KSC’s viability as a home for commercial space.
Our partners in the Senate are also working to secure an additional $12.6 million for infrastructure projects in the Senate’s Transportation and Economic Development budget, including $7.5 million for road construction at Exploration Park. The construction is part of an agreement between Space Florida and a private developer who has committed $98 million for construction of facilities at Exploration Park. The project is expected to create 1,725 new, permanent jobs at KSC.
As we brace for the layoffs that are planned later in the year, we continue to encourage you to contact your Senators and Congressmen to fight for our future in space!