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Orlando Sentinel: Florida Leaders Powwow on the Space Coast’s Future

Nov 7, 2011 | News

WASHINGTON — With employment at Kennedy Space Center expected to reach historic lows next year, Florida lawmakers from both parties met Wednesday to powwow on ideas to help thousands of workers displaced by the end of the space shuttle era.

Their conclusion: back the new rocket unveiled by NASA last month and hope that economic groups like Space Florida can mitigate job losses until the new Space Launch System comes online later in a few years.

“We have to grudgingly accept the fact there is going to be some transitional disruptions as a result of where we are in the space program,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, one of the four lawmakers who met for an hour in the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida. “But the sooner we can establish an exciting vision the better.”

Employment at KSC is expected to fall to roughly 8,200 by next summer — down from 15,000 in 2008 and its lowest level since before the Apollo program blasted astronauts to the moon more than 42 years ago.

Adding to the woe is that the new Space Launch System won’t approach full employment for years. A first launch isn’t planned until at least 2017 and KSC jobs won’t start returning until about 2013, KSC center have said.

In the interim, groups such as Space Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast have pressed other industries to relocate to the Space Coast.

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