The crowd was packed along that stretch of beach, cameras ready. Their eyes trained on the site that sent men to the moon 50 years ago, but reborn as the rod for another powerful rocket ready to fly.
The scene here last month was familiar and nostalgic, and the revival was renewed. But it was quite different. The rocket on the pillow, the Falcon Heavy, was developed not by NASA but by a private company, SpaceX.
Many in the audience were not born when Walter Cronkite described the moon landing for millions this section of the coastline held a sacred stain in the national consciousness. Instead, in the years since the Apollo period, Cape has become a symbol of abandoned dreams and the narrow ambitions that led to the departure of the space shuttle eight years ago and the end of the human space from American soil.
Now, however, Space Coast is back. A host of companies have claimed the old government Launchpads. Buildings that remained empty were torn or rebuilt. And the Cape is again on the verge of sending humans back into space for the first time since 2011, the new crescendo, revigorated the space age that many hopes will restore the pride waving the flag of yesteryear.
But today, the new space age is built on the capital of private enterprise, subject to the vagaries of the economy. And as the next chapter of America's great space adventure, the future of the Space Coast is far from assured.
This is where the space age was born, with heroes named John Glen, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride. This is where the compressed and packed beaches before launch, counting down at once, and caught the imagination of the world. And then it is not.
At the dawn of the space age, this fast coastal strip soon became a thriving prosperity. By the Cold War hitting the Soviet Union to the moon, the population soared with engineers and rocket scientists. Astronauts with the "right stuff" are trained by running on the beach during the day and partied at night on the Coco Beach strip filled with clubs and restaurants then.
If Cape was a cathedral, it would launch a 39A complex. Built for Apollo missions, its turret stood more than 500 meters high and launched Apollo astronauts to the moon in July 1969 on the Saturn V rocket so powerful it was like an earthquake.
After Apollo, the 39A was reborn as host to the space shuttle launch. But when the shuttle program was shut down after a 30-year run, the launch site began to submerge in the salty air, joining many other rapists abandoned by Cape as the ruins of a great civilization.
At the height of the recession, the unemployment rate in the Braward County, where the space market is largely based, rose to 12 percent. The real estate market plummeted.The median price of single homes decreased from almost $ 250 thousand in 2007 to less than $ 100 thousand by 2011.
"What we did not expect was (the shuttle's departure) to be consistent with the recession – the deepest and longest recession," said Linda Wuthman, president and chief executive officer of the Space Coast Economic Development Committee.
By 2013, maintenance on the 39A cushion would cost NASA $ 100,000 per month and even a spokesman had admitted then that the launcher was "not saved up." Since the facility is on the National Register of Historic Places, it could not be torn. Desperate to find someone to use it – even a start-up that unreasonably leads the commercialization of space.
SpaceX, a California venture founded by Alon Mosk, looked for the new launch and won the rights to take over the site. The company promised contracts from NASA to carry cargo to the International Space Station, and won strong commercial launch contracts that went abroad. With the growing manifestation, and perhaps a ticking belief in the future, SpaceX sought expansion.
Others arrived soon.
Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, made a last-minute offer to declare a 39A, touching the feud with Musk's SpaceX. But without a missile capable of flying from the site, the blue source was rejected. (Bezos owns the Washington Post.)
Instead, he looks up at another fading remnant, a launcher 36, just down the road. Up to 145 launches, including the Mariner mission, which sent deep probes to the solar system, were also wasted. In 2015, Blue Origin reached a deal to take it on a new rocket it is developing, named New Glen.
Blue Origin has also established a massive missile production facility nearby with expansion plans. Across the street, OneWeb, a satellite company that wants to create a global Internet system that is transferred from space, also has a new factory.
Boeing has taken over an old space shuttle processing facility where it is building a spacecraft designed to fly NASA astronauts into space for another launch launch.
And NASA is developing a massive rocket, the space launch system, which it hopes will help astronauts to the Moon within five years.NASA is raging to launch its first launch, with the Orion team capsule, built by Lockheed Martin, the ground next year.
The future of the space coast is also being written by small start-ups that begin to appear in an industry that has been dominated by large government programs and complex military contractors.
A San Francisco-based company called Relativity, founded by former Blue Origin and SpaceX employees, is working on a rocket built entirely by three-dimensional printing. The goal is to be able to launch small satellites quickly and affordably. Recently, the company signed an agreement to take over the launch of Cape 16.
At the door, at Launchpad 20, another start-up, Firefly, intends to launch rockets and is planning to build a nearby facility.
In general, the activity helps NASA realize its goals of transforming the Kennedy Space Center from a government-controlled facility into one with a large number of residents presenting a new space economy.