The impact of space extends far beyond the Cape area. It has been felt throughout Florida. Pratt & Whitney, near West Palm Beach, is a major facility. Nearby is the free world’s largest liquid hydrogen plant, built and operated by Air Products and Chemicals, for the Air Force. Florida’s largest industrial employer is Martin, of Orlando, employing more than 10,000 skilled workers.
Plants this size create their own impact by stimulating the establishment of feeder companies. Over 800 smaller Florida businesses supply Martin with everything from components of missiles to services for employees.
Industries contributing to the space effort are located from Pensacola to Miami, turning out a variety of sophisticated electronic devices scarcely dreamed of a few short years ago: tracking devices to trace and record missile behavior, guidance system components for celestial navigation, recorders, computers, tubes, and thousands of other electronic parts.
Small companies employing a handful; branch plants employing several thousand: all part of a growing space age technology in the Sunshine State.
Because of the nature of their products, these plants are attractive additions to the Florida scene, and their highly trained, skilled personnel are attractive additions to Florida’s population. They earn good salaries, build substantial homes, and raise intelligent young Floridians.
New Floridians have created a rapidly growing consumer market, graphically illustrated by the growth in retail food outlets. The number of Winn-Dixie stores in Florida more than doubled between the first launch at Cape Canaveral and the Mercury orbits. Similar growth has been experienced by Publix and other chains. These stores are usually basic to the development of sprawling shopping centers.
There has been an extensive cultural impact because of the educational level among space related personnel. New orchestras have been founded and older ones strengthened. Florida has more community theaters per capita than any other state. There has also been significant growth in public libraries, their facilities and their use.
Although Cape Canaveral and the Atlantic Missile Test Range make most of the headlines, it is not the only missile test range in Florida. The Air Proving Ground Center at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle operates the Eglin Gulf Test Range that includes tracking stations along the length of the Florida Gulf coast.
Tactical missile systems, such as the Bomarc, are tested at the operational level.
At the western tip of the Florida Panhandle is the Annapolis of the air, Pensacola Naval Air Station, and the space related School of Aviation Medicine. Unusual equipment at the disorientation center causes the fledgling astronauts to experience the stresses, strains, and disturbed equilibria of space travel, known as vertigo.
The school’s work in space programs began long ago. Baker, the astro-monkey that journeyed to the edge of space, was trained and still lives in the school’s animal laboratory.
Impressive as it is, the impact of space on Florida is actually just beginning. The expansions of Cape facilities to accommodate new programs will require seven times as much land for the missile test center. And on the land will be built facilities of such tremendous size and complexity as to stagger the imagination.
Sections of the advanced Saturn will be brought to the Cape on huge barges and then assembled erect in a building over 500 feet high, on special mobile gantries. Then doors as tall as a 45-story building will open and the assembled boosters will move to the launching sites.
Advanced Saturn and other programs will require additional thousands of workers, first to build and then to operate the facilities. New industrial plants will arise to furnish the boosters, the components, the goods and the services, swelling jobs related to space probes by many more thousands.
All these people working toward that historic day, soon – before the end of this decade – when a giant booster generating millions of pounds of thrust will thunder from Florida’s coast, carrying the banner of the United States and the hopes of free peoples everywhere to the moon and beyond.