Hank Silverberg, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - The arrival of space shuttle Discovery this month has spurred discussion about the end of the federally funded manned space program in the United States and the future of commercial space flight.
Now, Virginia has released a report on how the state can capitalize on that.
Virginia already boasts the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) and the Wallops Island Flight facilities, both of which are on the Eastern shore.
More than 9,000 Virginians work directly in space-related industries with another 19,000 people employed in supportive roles. The report says the state should actively try and recruit the workforce being laid off by NASA and should step up mentoring programs in schools for courses like science, technology, engineering and math.
Virginia's Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton says the state is already ahead of many other efforts to attract a space industry.
"We will have by the end of this year space flights or re-supply missions up to the International Space Station coming from Wallops Island," says Connaughton.
Currently, Virginia's biggest competition comes from Florida, home to both the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral.
Connaughton says Virginia can benefit from the thousands of retired military personnel who have experience in the aerospace industry, which contributes $7.6 billion to the annual economic output of the state.
The report also says the state needs to do more to market and promote the existing commercial space industry.
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