The Space Age changed Florida forever, drawing thousands of new workers to the state and transforming Cape Canaveral into a hub of aeronautics, electronics design and manufacturing.
Cities near the Cape, such as Titusville, Cocoa, Melbourne and Orlando, grew rapidly in population. Factories manufacturing crucial products for the space programs emerged all over the state. Space exploration and related industries pumped billions of dollars of federal funding into Florida's economy.
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This 15,000 pound thrust liquid hydrogen fueled RL10 engine was designed and developed at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft's Florida Research and Development Center for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center to power the Centaur and Saturn S-IV rockets.
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A J-57 engine, shown here during testing, is capable of developing more than 10,000 pounds of thrust. The axial-flow jet engines powered several of the nation's fighter planes, including the Air Force's F-100, F-101 and F-102A and the Navy's F-4D and F8U shipboard fighters.
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The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 required NASA to "provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof." This led to the formation of the Kennedy Space Center Technology Transfer Office.
NASA spin-off technology contributed to the development of freeze-dried food, solar energy, space blankets, cochlear implants and the Dustbuster.
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After the Soviet Union launched the first Sputnik, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act of 1958. It provided federal funding for education, especially in mathematics, science, engineering and modern foreign languages. New science and math programs were created, and existing programs were strengthened, as money poured in to educate Floridians to work in the space industry.
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The Senate Higher Education Committee approved a $511,000 extension of the University of Florida engineering college for applied research projects in the Cape Canaveral area.
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The Florida Technological University was founded by the Florida Legislature in 1963 and opened in 1968. The curriculum was designed to provide skilled personnel to support the U.S. space program in Florida. The Florida Technological University later became the University of Central Florida.
Space became an integral part of Florida’s culture. Communities near Cape Canaveral promoted Florida’s “Space Coast” as a new and exciting destination for tourists. Motels, restaurants and even housing developments adopted space-related themes to capture the interest of visitors and potential new residents. Developers and chambers of commerce emphasized Florida’s role in the space industry to attract new people and new businesses to their communities.
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The company's 1960 jubilee for top sales personnel in the eastern section of the U.S. was a space age themed program.
One of the greatest accomplishments witnessed at the Kennedy Space Center was the successful development and repeated launching of reusable orbiting spacecraft, the space shuttles.
Launched atop conventional rockets, the space shuttle reenters the earth’s atmosphere at more than 18,000 miles per hour.
More than a hundred space shuttle flights have sent orbiters to study space and map the earth, construct and outfit the International Space Center, successfully deploy the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and perform ongoing repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope.
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Photographed on October 1, 1980.
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Space Shuttle Columbia is slowly raised and prepared for mating with its external tank and solid rocket boosters, which will complete assembly of the first space shuttle vehicle.
Photographed on November 24, 1980.
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Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off Pad 39A, with astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen for the first space shuttle mission. After more than 54 hours of testing the shuttle's systems, they landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
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From left to right: Sally Ride, John Fabian, Robert Crippen, Norman Thagard, Rick Hauck.
Autographed by Sally K. Ride.
With all of the successes of NASA, there have been tragedies as well. A fire on the launch pad took the lives of the three-man crew of the Apollo I capsule in 1967. Nineteen years later, an explosion 73 seconds after the launch of Space Shuttle Challenger killed the entire crew. During its landing descent to Kennedy Space Center on February 1, 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia exploded, killing the entire seven-member crew.
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Space Shuttle Challenger lifts off Pad 30B on January 28, 1986 with a crew of seven astronauts. An accident 73 seconds after liftoff claimed both the crew and vehicle.
After the successful Apollo launches and subsequent change in direction of NASA’s mission and goals, major portions of NASA personnel and members of the area’s space-related workforce left for high-tech and military career opportunities in the Pacific Northwest, southern California and the northeastern states. However, thousands of native Floridians and recruited workers stayed following decades of serving the nation’s drive to explore space.
An entire generation of space-industry workers retired in the Space Coast area. Other initiatives, such as environmental services, including the development of solar energy technology, attracted even more skilled workers to the Space Coast. After five decades of space age development, Florida remains one of the nation’s centers for technology and manufacturing industries and still servings as the home of one of the world’s most significant spaceports.