Last week, spectators from across the country watched with mild incredulity as Newt Gingrich spoke to Floridians about his vision for a permanent lunar colony. Upon hearing this, many of us snickered from our couches at home, but at the Holiday Inn in Cocoa, Florida, where Newt was holding his rally, the message struck home. His statement boldly going where few politicians have gone before lifted many in attendance off of their seats and drove hundreds to cheers.
Cocoa, Florida sits nestled on the storied Space Coast, and the town is really hurting right now. Brevard County, which contains Cocoa and most of the Space Coast, lost an estimated 13,000 jobs with the demise of the space shuttle program last July. Cocoa pool halls, restaurants and bars are now empty, where once they were packed with NASA scientists, engineers and contract workers looking to relax after a hard day's work.
Roughly fifteen miles to the north of Cocoa, Titusville, Florida sits directly across the narrow bay from the Kennedy Space Center, and it's also hurting. The city of 44,510, which residents have proudly dubbed "Space City," sported a 13.8% unemployment rate before the NASA layoffs struck. In addition, many of its businesses depended upon space tourism, which would skyrocket around every NASA launch. With the loss of the space shuttle program, the city is now grounded in a painful economic reality.