Florida's 'Space Coast' Looks Beyond the Shuttle With just 11 missions left for the space shuttle, people along Florida's "Space Coast" worry what the program's end will mean for workers and the region's economy. NASA's new Constellation program is expected to employ thousands fewer workers.
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Florida's 'Space Coast' Looks Beyond the Shuttle

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Florida's 'Space Coast' Looks Beyond the Shuttle

Florida's 'Space Coast' Looks Beyond the Shuttle

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN: In the area near Cape Canaveral along Florida's Atlantic Coast, there's a sense of deja vu in the air. For many who live and work here, the looming end of the space shuttle brings back memories of the 1970s.

MONTAGNE: In the middle of all that euphoria of man stepping out to the stars for the first time ever, all of a sudden there were a lot of people without jobs, a lot of people without jobs.

ALLEN: Within just a few years, the workforce at the Kennedy Space Center was cut from 25,000 employees to less than half that. The ripple effects from those layoffs, he recalls, devastated communities from Titusville to Melbourne.

MONTAGNE: Some sold shoes. Some tried to do real estate. Before it was over, you could pick up houses for no money down, almost anywhere - any kind of house.

ALLEN: Mike Wetmore, an associate director at the Kennedy Space Center, says after 2010, workers still will be needed to close out shuttle operations.

MONTAGNE: So I would expect some contractors will move from shuttle to Constellation. Some of them will move into the retirement phase of their contract. And I know we have quite a few folks who are staying around to fly the program out. And then there will be some that unfortunately are left without jobs.

ALLEN: Lynda Weatherman, of the area's economic development commission, says looking to the future it's important that Florida's Space Coast diversify its aerospace industry and the role it plays in the nation's space program.

MONTAGNE: We don't want to rely on launch. We can't afford to rely on launch. And we have a case where just two years ago showed where this state can bring assembly work in.

ALLEN: Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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