Tallahassee, FL -- April 26, 2012 --
For 50 years, it's been a critical part of Florida's economy. But now our space industry is struggling to survive. The retirement of the shuttle program has left thousands of workers jobless. And, it's also called into question whether Florida's days as America's pre-eminent space state are over.
After 30 years and more than 130 missions, the space shuttle program has disappeared into history. And now the talent, technology and patriotism that helped drive it may be in jeopardy of disappearing, too.
Tim pickens works at dynetics, a NASA contractor in Huntsville, Alabama. He's committed to reviving Florida's space industry, not least because his company depends on it. Now that manned missions launching from Cape Canaveral are no more...He says it'll be up to a handful of private space flight companies to help inspire a national movement.
"People are going to say, 'NASA, what's the vision? Where are we going?' and then, they need to be looking at air breathing technology, you know, hypersonics, and you know, 'how do i get my ride from New York to LA In 15 minutes?'
Pickens says only the government can pioneer that kind of technology, and if enough people ask for it, Washington will pay for it.
But, there's no guarantee manned launches will return to Florida.
That's why Farrukh Alvi spearheads a research hub aimed at using space technology in other ways.
"I suspect that Florida will not be the only one that's going to be launching things - Texas, New Mexico and others. But, you need to have a more diverse economy, so even if it's very successful, you do not want to just invest in there - you need to diversify."
Areas like green energy and biotech - they could be a big part of america's economic future. And, in the end, blasting off from Texas and New Mexico may not be possible...Because of Florida.