CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The countdown is on for the launch of the first crewed space mission from the United States in nine years; the rocket is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday afternoon.
The excitement is bringing crowds to the Space Coast, and it means a lot for residents around Titusville, as well.
“Everybody’s excited,” said Bonnie Hoffman, a resident. “I work in a local diner, so I hope it brings in more business.”
The parks around Titusville are expected to be packed like they were nearly a decade ago for the last shuttle launch. All eyes remain on the sky as many wait to see if Mother Nature cooperates.
“I think it’ll be heard to leave your house tomorrow,” said Tony Phillips, a Space Coast resident.
The last space shuttle to soar into space was the Atlantis. It launched from the same launchpad that the Space X Falcon 9 is set to lift off from Wednesday. In the past, a launch with a crew onboard brought about half a million people to the area. A lot of them filled area hotels with local coffers. But over the last nine years, with no human space flight, space tourism faltered.
“It’s a great opportunity. It’s great to see astronauts launching from American soil once again, so we’re super excited," said Titusville Chamber of Commerce President Marcia Gaedcke. “But social distancing, people wearing masks, not a complete return to operations, it makes it a little challenging.”
Steve’s Diner has been along the Space Coast for 22 years. As long as the shuttle was flying, business was good.
“It’s a little bit different now, not as busy was when the shuttle was here," said John Houvardas, owner of Steve’s Diner. “I mean, we’re still doing OK, but nothing like the shuttle days.”
Though there has been quite a lull in business over the last nine years, Houvardas is hopeful.
“There’s always hope," he said. “There’s some commotion going on over at NASA and in the community, so we’re always hopeful for change.”
The official weather forecast has improved, and there is now a 60% chance of favorable weather conditions for the Space X Demo-2 launch, according to the 45th Air Force Weather Space Wing.
If for some reason the launch is scrubbed, the next launch window is Saturday.