NASA, the Public, and Space Exploration in the Public Imagination

As the American public embraced the nation's new mission, serving as the base for the nation's space exploration became another aspect of the unique character of Florida and its people.

Boys look at an exhibit while standing on the tread of a crawler-transporter: Cape Canaveral Florida(19--)

Boys look at an exhibit while standing on the tread of a crawler-transporter: Cape Canaveral Florida(19--)

Image Number: C680808

The boys are standing on one section of the tread of the Crawler-Transporter. Each section like the boys are standing on weighs one ton. All exhibits, space movies and space science demonstrtions are available to the public at no charge.

Crowds watching the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (1998)

Crowds watching the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (1998)

Image Number: MF1104

The crew of 7 included John Herschel Glenn making history as the oldest human in space at age 77.

Window display of space exhibit (ca. 1960)

Window display of space exhibit (ca. 1960)

Image Number: PR10301

The Aerospace Industry's first major educational exhibit, telling about Florida's importatnt role in the U.S. Space program, opening at the Florida Showcase in New York City.

Florida's citizens and millions of annual tourists eagerly participated in the cultural changes the space age entailed. In parades and festivals, people celebrated Florida's new identity. The NASA facilities became a popular tourist attraction with bus tours, breathtaking exhibits of rockets, capsules, and assembly buildings, and an accommodating visitor center. Entrance was free until the visitor center was privatized in the 1990s and the visitor facilities were modernized and expanded. Surrounding communities and businesses featured space age influence in design signage and billboards, promoting the area's intimate connection to space exploration.

NASA's accomplishments and overwhelming public support helped make the aeronautics and information industries and the Kennedy Space Center politically potent. Successive governors and other elected officials took care to express their pleasure at having NASA and the space center in Florida and to do their part to ensure that the partnership thrived. "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been one of Florida's most welcome residents…,"said Governor Reubin Askew in 1973.

Parade float from Brevard county in Florida Governor Bryant's inaugural parade (1961)

Parade float from Brevard county in Florida Governor Bryant's inaugural parade (1961)

Image Number: PT00521

Sales representatives in "spacettes" costume pose before the rocket entranceway of Tupperware Home Parties Inc.: Orlando, Florida (1960)

Sales representatives in "spacettes" costume pose before the rocket entranceway of Tupperware Home Parties Inc.: Orlando, Florida (1960)

Image Number: C033886

The company's 1960 jubilee for top sales personnel in the eastern section of the U.S. was a space-age program.

A New Draw for Florida's Waves of New Settlers

NASA development immediately brought 25,000 skilled men and women directly to Florida, in addition to other economic effects such as a new housing boom and waves of new consumers. The space program changed the character of Brevard County from an aging, agriculture area into a largely younger center of rapid regional growth, and it prepared the entire state for a vibrant economic life in a new millennium. Brevard County became the fastest growing county in the nation between 1950 and 1960 and space-race related development greatly impacted Daytona Beach in Volusia County, Cocoa Beach to the South and Orlando.

While the scientists, engineers, and pilots of the Space program patronized local restaurants and clubs and filled thousands of necessary positions both in NASA and in private businesses, the spouses of the new arrivals were busy expanding the area's cultural offerings and service organizations. Attendance in Brevard's public schools quadrupled over the same ten years and capital outlay for schools increase by twenty-five and a half million dollars.

NASA astronaut Marine Colonel Charles Bolden gives a news conference prior to speaking at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University: Tallahassee, Florida (1984)

NASA astronaut Marine Colonel Charles Bolden gives a news conference prior to speaking at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University: Tallahassee, Florida (1984)

Image Number: MF0053

"NASA astronaut Marine Colonel Charles Bolden gestures during a Wednesday news conference as he fielded questions from the media. Bolden, who served as Pilot One during the six day flight of Columbia and selected pilot for the upcoming space telescope mission, keynoted the 16th Annual Midshipman Spring Review at Florida A&M University."

JoAnn Hardin Morgan, posing with space shuttle model (1995)

JoAnn Hardin Morgan, posing with space shuttle model (1995)

Image Number: N041277

Children enjoying Aerospace Industry exhibit (ca. 1960)

Children enjoying Aerospace Industry exhibit (ca. 1960)

Image Number: PR10300

The Aerospace Industry's first major educational exhibit, telling about Florida's important role in the U.S. Space program, opening at the Florida Showcase in New York City. Included in the picture afrom L-R: Sandy, age 8, Dick, age 10, and Diane McLane, age 12.

First annual Key West Raft Race participants leaving Monroe Beach : Key West, Florida (1986)

First annual Key West Raft Race participants leaving Monroe Beach: Key West, Florida (1986)

Image Number: DM0427

This is a view of the "Ocean Shuttle" entry.

John Glenn, Presidential candidate and former astronaut: Tallahassee, Florida (1984)

John Glenn, Presidential candidate and former astronaut: Tallahassee, Florida (1984)

Image Number: FFL0218