NASA’s legacy in the South paves way for the future

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - 2019 has been a big year for Huntsville.

We're not only celebrating the past success of landing on the moon 50 years ago... we're also looking toward what's next - which could include another trip to the moon.

Vice President Mike Pence recently announced a goal of returning to the moon in 2024.

When NASA moved into the South, with it came new job opportunities for the people living in the region. Douglas Brinkley is a historian who serves as the Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and Professor of History at Rice University. He is also the CNN Presidential Historian, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Brinkley works in many capacities in the world of public history, including on boards, museums, colleges, and historical societies. The Chicago Tribune even dubbed him 'America’s New Past Master.'

Long story short, he's an expert in American history.

Brinkley wrote the book "American Moonshot" about former president John F. Kennedy and the "great space race". Kennedy announced plans to go to the moon by the end of the decade on May 25, 1961, and from that moment, the South was changed forever.

He made the mission of going to the moon a national priority and a mission in which all Americans, especially those in the South, would all be a part of. Kennedy stated that it wasn't just one man going to the moon, but the entire nation.

Brinkley said the South changes because NASA allows it to become a new technology quarter.

"FDR had, you know, the Grand Coulee Dam and Tennessee Valley Authority, and Dwight Eisenhower built the interstate highway system, Kennedy's so-called 'New Frontier' was looking for what it actually was," he explained.

Building up NASA in the South brought resources and opportunity that weren't there before.

"It ended up being a lot of money got put into the South and Southwest, places like Huntsville, Alabama," Brinkley added.

Brinkley said the effort involved many people.

"It took a lot of technology; you had over 400,00 people participating in one way or another and trying to get us to the moon," he stated. "It became an economic windfall and created durable tech communities in the southern zone."

The space race left us with what we have today, preparing us for the future of space exploration for mankind.

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