NASA touts its impact on states’ economies, employment

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As NASA gets set to head to the moon again, data says the agency has had a positive economic impact here on Earth.

In fiscal 2021, 27,004 jobs were created in Florida alone through space agency spending, the space agency said, adding that its activities ripple across the entire United States.

On Monday, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency announced that four astronauts — Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Hammock Koch and CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen — will head around the moon on Artemis II, the first crewed mission to advance NASA’s goal to establish a long-term presence on the Moon for science and exploration.

“The Artemis II crew represents thousands of people working tirelessly to bring us to the stars. This is their crew, this is our crew, this is humanity’s crew,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at an event at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The 10-day Artemis II flight test, planned for late 2024, will launch on the agency’s Space Launch System rocket, prove the Orion spacecraft’s life-support systems, and validate the capabilities and techniques needed for humans to live and work in deep space.  

“For the first time in more than 50 years, these individuals — the Artemis II crew — will be the first humans to fly to the vicinity of the moon. Among the crew are the first woman, first person of color, and first Canadian on a lunar mission, and all four astronauts will represent the best of humanity as they explore for the benefit of all,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

In March, the Biden administration unveiled its fiscal 2024 federal budget, which would provide $27.2 billion in funding for NASA for the next fiscal year.
“At NASA, we support good-paying American jobs, stir imaginations and excite the world to gaze up at the heavens and reflect on our place in the universe,” Nelson said.

The funds will allow NASA to build on the successful uncrewed Artemis I mission that launched in November and sent the spacecraft into lunar orbit and back to Earth. More than $8.1 billion would be provided in Biden’s budget to enable lunar exploration activities and to prepare for sending astronauts to Mars through NASA’s moon-to-Mars exploration approach.

The budget also provides $949 million for the U.S.-led Mars sample return mission, which will return rock and soil samples to earth.

The $2.5 billion for earth science includes funds for an Earth System Observatory, which will provide access to data and information on climate change and natural hazards for scientists, decision-makers and the public.

The budget’s $1.39 billion to support research and development into new technologies are supposed to advance U.S. space exploration capabilities and create jobs through the growth of commercial space companies. 

Regular crewed missions to the International Space Station are supposed to allow NASA’s commercial partners to build a robust space economy where NASA is just one of many customers.

The budget would spend more than $500 million in a suite of technologies that will help meet the administration’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions from the aviation sector no later than 2050.

The $158 million for NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement aims to engage students through enhanced partnerships and includes expanding opportunities for students from underrepresented communities.

NASA’s activities are felt in the bottom line throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to two reports.

The 60 year-old Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral is the world’s preeminent multi-user spaceport, NASA says, and generated more than $5.2 billion of economic impact for Florida, the agency said in a May report.

Overall, the economic activity associated with the spaceport supports 27,004 jobs, the report said.

Contributing to the economic impact are the space-related tourism expenditures made by out-of-state visitors to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex as well as the trip expenses of Kennedy’s business travelers.

The Visitor Complex generated an economic output effect of around $148.3 million in fiscal 2021 supporting about 1,390 jobs and just over $79.3 million in total income.

The attraction remains one of Central Florida’s most popular tourist destinations. In 2021, roughly 960,000 people visited the complex.

The spending categories that drive Kennedy’s economic impacts include civil service compensation of $346.4 million and contractual obligations of $855.1 million as well as the approximately $1.51 billion of budgetary expenses of its commercial launch provider partners, partially supported by NASA contracts.

Kennedy’s transition into a public-private space gateway is reflected in the makeup of its workforce.

In fiscal 2021, the spaceport employed 12,312 people, of whom around 4,070 were not under the direct auspices of NASA, meaning that non-NASA jobs comprised about one of every three workers. For comparison in 2010, non-NASA spaceport jobs comprised about one of every 10 workers.

As of December, Kennedy has more than 90 private sector partners and nearly 250 partnership agreements. New arrangements are allowing companies to consolidate manufacturing, integration, testing and launch services in a single area to enable more efficient operations.

The U.S. Space Force estimates there will be as many as 87 launches from Florida’s Space Coast this year, including more SpaceX missions and the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan and Relativity’s Terran 1 rockets, according to SpaceFlightNow.com.

This would follow a record-setting year at Cape Canaveral in 2022 that saw 57 orbital-class rockets take off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, SpaceFlightNow said.

“Even with a busy launch cadence and continued growth, Kennedy Space Center remains committed to sustainability,” NASA said. “The spaceport shares a boundary with the 140,000-acre Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and the center’s environmental program protects more than 1,000 species of plants, 117 species of fish, 68 species of amphibians and reptiles, 300 species of birds, and 31 different types of mammals.”

Economic results were impressive in other parts of the country, according to a report issued by NASA in October.

NASA said the results of its economic impact report showed how its moon-to-Mars activities, investments in climate change research and technology generated more than $71.2 billion in total economic output in fiscal 2021.

Combined, NASA said its work supported more than 339,600 jobs nationwide and generated nearly $7.7 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues throughout the United States.

Every state in the country benefits economically, NASA said, with 46 states seeing an economic impact of more than $10 million a year. Of those 46 states, nine have an economic impact of $1 billion or more.

Overall, the study found NASA’s moon-to-mars exploration approach generated more than $20.1 billion in total economic output and supported more than 93,700 jobs nationwide.

The agency said its moon-to-Mars program generated nearly $2.2 billion in tax revenue.

For investments in climate research and technology, the agency’s activities generated more than $7.4 billion in total economic output and supported more than 37,000 jobs nationwide, the report said. The climate change research and technology investments generated almost $810 million in tax revenue.

Separately, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced on Wednesday that it has entered into a Space Act agreement with NASA to collaborate on initiatives to plan the next generation of flight within the port authority’s airspace.

The evolution of flight technology includes the use of drones and electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles to move cargo and passengers.

The Port Authority was chosen for its operational knowledge of the constrained airspace around the region due to the operations of the agency’s three major airports and the potential strength of the regional market in the future of air travel. 

“The Port Authority has a long history of fostering and promoting innovation and new technology to advance our agency’s mission to keep the region moving, including our most recent initiatives on the use of unmanned aircraft systems for maintenance, testing autonomous vehicle technology to increase capacity, or working with stakeholders to redevelop or replace outmoded facilities.” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton.

“NASA may be a small federal agency, but we punch above our weight, fueling growth in American industry with good-paying, quality jobs in all 50 states and maintaining our leadership in space and science,” Nelson said.

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