THE COMEBACK COAST: New Space Age is Built On the Fortunes of Private Enterprise

By  //  July 7, 2019

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COMPANIES IN THE COSMOS

WATCH: The birthplace of America’s Space Age fell into decay once the shuttle retired. Now it’s bouncing back, fueled by private industry. (

The birthplace of America’s Space Age fell into decay once the shuttle retired. Now it’s bouncing back, fueled by private industry.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (The Washington Post) — The crowds were packed along that same stretch of beach, cameras ready. Their eyes trained on the site that sent men to the moon 50 years ago but had now been reborn as the perch for another powerful rocket ready to fly.

The scene here last month was at once familiar and nostalgic, the past revived. But it was also altogether different. The rocket on the pad, the Falcon Heavy, was developed not by NASA but by a private company, SpaceX.

Many in the crowd weren’t born when Walter Cronkite narrated the lunar landing for millions and this stretch of coastline held a sacrosanct spot in the national consciousness.

Instead, in the years since the Apollo era, the Cape had become a symbol of the abandoned dreams and diminished ambitions that ultimately led to the retirement of the space shuttle eight years ago and the end of human spaceflight from U.S. soil.

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The scene on Florida’s Space Coast last month was at once familiar and nostalgic, the past revived. But it was also altogether different. The rocket on the pad, the Falcon Heavy, was developed not by NASA but by a private company, SpaceX. (SpaceX image)

Now, though, the Space Coast is coming back.

A host of companies have laid claim to the old government launchpads. Buildings left vacant have been torn down or rebuilt.

And the Cape is once again on the verge of sending humans back to space for the first time since 2011, the crescendo of a new, reinvigorated space age that many hope will restore the flag-waving pride of a bygone era.

As new life is being breathed back into this venerable coastline, the resurrection is coming in fits and starts, and in an entirely new form that is far more unstable and unpredictable than the one infused by government cash in the 1960s.

Today, the new space age is built on the fortunes of private enterprise, subject to the whims of the economy. And like the next chapter of America’s grand adventure in space, the future of the Space Coast is far from guaranteed.

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The scene on Florida’s Space Coast last month was at once familiar and nostalgic, the past revived. But it was also altogether different. The rocket on the pad, the Falcon Heavy, was developed not by NASA but by a private company, SpaceX. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post image

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