Home Business Nearly 11,000 Floridians employed in nation’s ‘Moon To Mars’ quest

Nearly 11,000 Floridians employed in nation’s ‘Moon To Mars’ quest

A replica of the Mars rover Perseverance is displayed outside the press site before a news conference at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launch scheduled for tomorrow will transport the rover to Mars. John Raoux

By John Haughey | The Center Square
According to Space Florida, the state’s public-private space development agency, more than 17,100 commercial companies employ at least 130,000 residents in high-tech, high-wage jobs within Florida’s $20 billion aerospace industry.

More than 33,000 of those employees were working on $5.9 billion worth of contracts for NASA in 2019, the federal agency said, including 10,870 employees working on contracts for its Moon To Mars mission.

NASA has posted the results of its first-ever economic impact report, which said the 62-year-old agency’s activities generated $64.3 billion in economic output during fiscal year 2019, supported more than 312,000 jobs nationwide and generated an estimated $7 billion in federal, state and local taxes across the country.

“In this new era of human spaceflight, NASA is contributing to economies locally and nationally, fueling growth in industries that will define the future, and supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in America,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

While NASA consumes “just one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget,” Bridenstine said the study “confirms, and puts numbers, to what we have long understood – that taxpayer investment in America’s space program yields tremendous returns that strengthen our nation on several fronts – a stronger economy, advances in science and technology, and improvements to humanity.”

According to the report, NASA generated an annual economic impact of more than $10 million in 43 states and more than $1 billion in eight states, including Florida.

In Florida, NASA spent $5.9 billion in contracts that employed 33,093 people in fiscal year 2019. That ranked fourth in the nation behind California (69,725 employed, $16.6 billion in contracts), Texas (40,321, $8.7 billion), Alabama (35,768, $6.1 billion) and Maryland (35,563, $7.5 billion).

NASA also conducted an economic impact study of its Moon To Mars initiative – a goal to return to the moon and get to Mars within a decade – generated more than $14 billion in total economic output and $1.5 billion in tax revenues for state and local governments, and supported more than 69,000 jobs nationwide in fiscal year 2019.

NASA said its Moon To Mars program generated $2 billion in economic impact and supported 10,870 jobs in Florida. Only Colorado, with 12,419 working on $2.6 billion in contracts, and Alabama, with 18,609 employed doing $3.28 billion in work, were more involved in the endeavor.

The Orion crew capsule for the Moon to Mars program is being built at Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s Space Coast, the epicenter of private commercial aerospace development in the state, with Elon Musk-owned Space X, Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin, Boeing, Relativity Space, Firefly Aerospace, Lockheed, OneWeb Satellites and others setting up shop.

The first crewless test flight of a Florida-built Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule will launch on a month-long mission around the moon in 2021. The Artemis II test flight with astronauts will follow, and then Artemis III, which will land astronauts on the moon.

Among key advantages enjoyed by the state in competing for aerospace development is the 2006 creation of Space Florida, which operates five “spaceport” special districts dedicated to, as Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed last year, make Florida the “Silicon Valley of space.”

Space Florida has a $16.5 million fiscal year 2021 budget, including $11.5 million in state general revenue funds, and has drawn more than $1 billion in nonfederal investment to modernize its infrastructure in the past 15 years. It offers an array of tax incentives for aerospace development companies.

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