When it began, it inspired a young president to dream of putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. And now, we are all waking up, because that dream is over.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) agency, formed in 1958, saw its final space shuttle launch on July 8, bringing an end for now to NASA's mission of sending people into outer space. There's simply no more need for the space plane program started in the 1970s.
As it has spearheaded the changing of the guard at NASA, the Obama administration has made it clear that the end of the shuttle is by no means an end to American space exploration. Rather, it's a refocus.
"Simply put, we're putting the science back into the rocket science at NASA," White House science adviser John Holdren said in 2010 as the end of the space shuttle program was announced.
But while the hope is that the transition will allow American space exploration to adapt to future challenges, the immediate run could see an estimated loss of 9,000 jobs in Florida alone, according to a report compiled by CBS News. (Contractors at the Kennedy Space Center have already announced the termination of 7,000 positions this year.)
Speaking on behalf of his state on CBS's "Early Show," Florida Sen. Marco Rubio saw the lag as a symbol of America's failure to compete.
"From now on, we have to pay the Russians $50 million-an-astronaut to send Americans to the space station. And we have no plans to have anything in place to replace the shuttle any time before 2016. For Washington, it should be ashamed it took so long to deal with this, and that something's not in place. But it's important for America moving forward, because China, India, are investing heavily in their space programs. We cannot afford as Americans to lose space supremacy."
Indeed, the drop in employment is sure to extend beyond the Kennedy Space Center, which itself has a staff numbering 13,000.
With no more people being launched from Cape Canaveral, the so-called Space Coast in Florida is expecting a lessening of its commercial appeal.
"We may sell," 82-year-old Tom Foley, the owner of Space World U.S.A., told The New York Times. "We just don't want to give people the impression the store is giving up on the space program."
Space World is the oldest NASA memorabilia shop in Florida.
The NASA bust couldn't come at a worse time for the Sunshine State. Floridian unemployment was most recently registered at a rate of 10.6 percent in May. The figure is the fourth-worst in the Union.
Mindful of the shock to Florida's economy, President Obama has promised the moves are being made in the long-term interest of protecting American space exploration and its attendant industries.
"The bottom line is: Nobody is more committed to manned space flight, the human exploration of space, than I am," he was quoted by AP as saying last year. "But we've got to do it in a smart way; we can't keep doing the same old things as before."
Among his stated goals is eventually sending astronauts to Mars and, by 2025, at least reaching beyond the Moon.
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