Between successfully transporting a bunch of experiments from the International Space Station to the Pacific and, once again, failing to land the Falcon 9 reusable rocket, SpaceX announced earlier this week that it had reached a deal with the Air Force to use one of the launch pads abandoned by NASA when Congress’s least favorite agency mothballed the Space Shuttle. The announcement was a flag-planting of the Neil Armstrong-in-the-West-Crater stripe: Elon Musk’s product launches will make Palo Alto ribbon cuttings look like Mark Zuckerberg’s purim party. That’s great news for Musk, but it’s also great news for everyone in the 32920 zip code. The party is coming back to town.
The “Space Coast” was a great American destination for decades before it wasn’t. Today, the area is home to a lot of exploration themed diners (The Moon Hut, Shuttle’s Bar and Grill) that used to make big money on launch days. When those days stopped coming, business crashed and the area, economically speaking, exploded. Will Musk turn it around? Not entirely, the new space race will never consume the country like the old one (it’s not an ideological staring contest and the Eagle landed long ago), but everyone still loves a good rocket launch.
And the great thing about Musk - one of the great things anyway - is that he understands spectacle and embraces it. When his rockets crash, he put the video up online. He’s not afraid to fail in public because Brezhnev isn’t watching and progress sometimes looks a ball of flame. South Florida is going to spend the foreseeable future being treated to the best and most interesting fireworks show on the planet. That hour drive from Disney World is starting to look worthwhile.
The real “Community of Tomorrow” may just turn out to be the community of yesterday.