Space Day 2019: Florida's aerospace industry on display

Published: Feb. 19, 2019 at 6:25 PM EST
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By: Brittany Bedi | WCTV Eyewitness News

February 19, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Visitors at the Florida Capitol got an up close and personal look at space exploration on Tuesday, part of Space Day 2019.

Space Day is a joint effort between NASA, the International Space Station and various aerospace companies to show legislators and visitors the importance of the aerospace industry.

The aerospace industry accounts for more than $16 billion in Florida.

Various displays were set up for visitors.

A replica of the Apollo lunar rover was on display in the courtyard, along with a model of the RL-10 rocket engine.

Inside the capitol rotunda, multiple tables and items were on display to educate visitors about the aerospace industry.

Local resident Jen Smith stopped by to try out a virtual reality tour of the International Space Station. She reached out her hands, amazed as she simulated a space walk.

"If I was a child growing up with this technology, I would absolutely hands-down be more motivated to be an astronaut," said Smith. "That's awesome stuff right there!"

Former NASA astronaut Eileen Collins is this year's guest of honor. She was the first female astronaut to command a shuttle.

She spoke with visitors about her experience and her enthusiasm for space exploration.

"The government cannot do all of space exploration. It's very important. What Space Florida is doing here, is getting the message out, that Florida is welcoming to the space industry. We want to see private companies invest," said Collins.

"I personally would like to see more private companies take the initiative and that there's some kind of a reward for that. They can have a for-profit company that can actually go into space; whether they're doing low-earth orbit, satellite deployment, or maybe they want to go to the moon or do maybe planetary resources," Collins continued. "It's not going to happen overnight, but we've got to stick to it. We've got to be welcoming to the private companies, give them some incentives to know there really is some reward in space."

Space exploration and NASA research spins off into technology applied to various aspects of life on earth. It can improve fertilizer distribution, technology, and more.

Wayne Saxer spent the morning answering visitor questions at the Kennedy Space Center booth.

"Smartphones, the miniaturization of technology, there's a lot of things that's really expensive or were once really expensive that are now becoming more affordable because NASA and the government is investing in that technology to make it more affordable and more accessible," said Saxer.

He says that once low-earth orbit is commercialized, NASA can really focus funding on deep-space exploration.

NASA is also planning to launch Demo 1 for SpaceX as a plan to return top launching astronauts into space from U.S. soil. Launching from the U.S. will keep opportunities and money in the country.