You don’t have to love science or have a curious mind about space travel to be enthralled by Monday night’s rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Island facility.
It was a sight to behold for thousands of residents who watched the launch from their backyards, the Inlet parking lot in Ocean City and Assateague Island. The clear nighttime conditions provided ideal viewing conditions for the launch of the Antares rocket, which is taking more than 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments to the International Space Station.
While the visuals were impressive, it’s the technology and science behind it that should be celebrated, and according to witnesses rounds of applause could be heard at most of the large gathering areas for Monday’s launch.
Moving forward and ahead after last year’s forced explosion of a similar rocket was critical for Wallops Island’s future, which looks bright on a number of fronts, including economic development in the forms of professional jobs. That will in turn support all sectors of society, including real estate and associated industries as well as retail, education and health care.
U.S. Senator Barb Mikulski, who is in her final weeks in office, has long viewed Wallops as an economic engine for the shores of Virginia and Maryland. According to her office, Mikulski has spearheaded in excess of $160 million in federal funds for Wallops and was called the facility’s “patron saint” at a recent grant announcement.
Mikulski and other elected officials are closely monitoring the federal government’s decision on where to base the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft program. Wallops is one of three facilities under consideration and it’s expected to bring 400 jobs wherever it goes.
With more rocket launches planned into the future, the next evolution the public needs to follow is the Triton unmanned aviation project. That will be a game changer for the facility and the shore.
Approximately half of the Wallops facility’s currently employees reside in Worcester County and many more can be expected if the Triton program lands on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
There’s a lot to be excited about regarding Wallops and its future could go a long way toward diversifying our local industries beyond the traditional reliance on tourism, farming, health care and education.