The question being asked on Monday, was what to do with the Kennedy Space Center. Now that the space program is no longer a priority for the government, the center has essentially been shut down. NASA ended the space program in 2011 shortly after the last shuttle mission landed on Earth. Since then the Kennedy Space Center has been in the process of privatizing and becoming more of a 21st century space port, recently it played host to a diversification hearing. With only 8,000 people currently employed at Kennedy Space Center this is down from 18,000 that used to work there, something needs to be done to move the Kennedy Space Center into the 21st century.
There are currently 320 empty buildings sitting on the nearly 150,000 acre 240-square mile piece of federal land known as the Kennedy Space Center. A panel gathered to discuss what can be done with this property to bring in revenues now that NASA no longer has the space program, and with it the taxpayer funding. Some of the buildings are already set to be demolished, and the Center is bringing in some funding around $580,000 in lease payments. However, that is not enough to offset the money that they lost when the space program was disbanded said, KSC Director Bob Cabana.
John Mica, Republican representative from the 7th district in Florida held a congressional hearing on Monday, February 10th, to determine how best to utilize the unused buildings. He was joined by two other representatives from the state of Florida, as well as representatives from Michigan, and Virginia. They heard from members of the Audubon society, the director of Kennedy Space Center, members of the Air Force, the US General Services Administration, The COO of Space Florida and the CEO of Cape Canaveral Port Authority.
Congressman Mica stated during the hearing that many of the facilities and launch sites missed “the boat” by not commercializing or privatizing earlier. However, he added that he feels NASA and the Kennedy Space Center is moving forward in a positive manner now by discussing how best to utilize this unused space. One option they have is to lease the launch complex 39A to SpaceX. Right now the Kennedy Space center has plenty of different options to diversify and the hosts got to hear about some of these from different members of the community.
Dale Ketcham, a local space industry advocate stated that the public-private partnership is the key to the region’s future success. One of the options that is currently being explored could bring about 5,000 jobs to the area in the next five to seven years. The idea was put forth by the CEO of the Canaveral Port Authority John Walsh, who suggested building a rail line that connected the Port Authority to the Kennedy Space Center. Roughly 10 miles of track would need to be laid, a job that Walsh said “shouldn’t be too difficult” and added, that if it is possible to send a rover to Mars then surely it would be possible to connect up 10 miles of track.
One of the reasons that it is taking so long to convert the Kennedy Space Center from public to private is its obligations to other agencies, said a spokesman for the center. Mica also called on the government to make things easier, stating that if something is not done then more jobs and more business is going to be lost in the future. While the diversification process is taking longer than some would hope, Mica is confident that with this recent hearing the Kennedy Space Center can start to move forward and host new opportunities.
By Rachel Woodruff