Photo exhibits spotlight various topics in Florida history, and are accompanied by brief text intended to place selected materials in historical context.
NASA Turns 50
Florida's Half Century on the Space Age Frontier
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.
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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.
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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.
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