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On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced that the U.S. would land astronauts on the moon "before the decade is out."
But the pressure and responsibility of achieving that did not fall on him.
NASA - Companies - Vehicles - Spacecraft - Hardware
Instead, it was up to NASA and the companies working with them to build launch vehicles, spacecraft and other hardware that would work together to ferry astronauts to the moon.
To do that, several companies either opened or expanded operations in Central Florida. So the moon mission brought companies such as Martin Marietta, Grumman and Lockheed into the forefront of the region's economy.
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"It introduced Central Florida into the national economy in a way that it had never been before," said UCF political science professor Roger Handberg, who has written several books on the space industry. "The space industry totally changed the dynamics here because there was nothing here. It was all orange groves."
Handberg said he played high school football, and his team would often travel to Orlando, down roads along miles of empty land.
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But once Space Coast-related activity grew, it created the need for a highway that connected Orlando to the coast, with the introduction of what's known now as the BeachLine Expressway changing how Central Florida motorists got around.
Initially known as the Bee Line Expressway because it offered a direct route to the Space Coast, the first portions of what would eventually become the 41-mile road that connects Interstate 4 to U.S. Highway 1 debuted in 1967.
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"It improved transportation," Handberg said. "A lot of people decided to live in Central Florida and commute to the Cape during Apollo and later the shuttle."
That growth was only natural in an area watching a new industry develop, said Charlie Mars, who was NASA's program chief for the Apollo's lunar module.
"You just didn't increase the total population by 24,000 and...
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