Thursday, July 21, 2011

Space Coast Gears Up for What's Next

Florida Today reports that the end of the Space Shuttle program also marks the beginning of new opportunities for Brevard County.

Local business, tourism and political leaders sent a clear message to the world on Wednesday: the space shuttle program is ending, but the Space Coast isn't going away.

The officials took advantage of a national media audience in town for today's scheduled final landing of shuttle Atlantis to hold a briefing at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on the area's post-shuttle future.

While conceding that tough times are ahead, they said Brevard County will survive — and will thrive in the future.

The article notes, "Shuttle launch visitors account for just 5 percent of the local tourism market in an average year." It's expected that the tourism industry will survive through innovation and diversification.

Meanwhile, answers the "what's next" question for U.S. human spaceflight:

The end of the shuttle program will be an adjustment, officials said, but will ultimately enable NASA to direct its resources toward building a new spaceship and rocket to take people beyond low-Earth orbit to an asteroid and Mars . . .

"NASA I think has really laid the foundation for commercial spaceflight to take off," Atlantis' commander Chris Ferguson said during a press conference after landing. "I think we're going to have people perhaps spending long periods of time in orbit who have paid for a trip there."

The article notes that commercial cargo deliveries to the International Space Station are scheduled to begin in 2012, with crew flights in 2014 or 2015.

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