Early rising Californians got a glimpse of NASA's InSight mission to Mars earlier this month when the spacecraft spectacularly blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force base at 4:05 a.m. Anyone who decided to sleep in, though, need not fret — The Atlantic reports that California is well on its way to being America's new Space Coast.
For one thing, the industry is returning. While "southern California as we know it would not exist without aerospace," in the words of historian Peter Westwick, "the city's hidden history is now waking up," The Atlantic writes. Of course there is Elon Musk's SpaceX, but there is also the center at Vandenberg and the Mojave Air and Space Port north of Los Angeles.
For another, the technology has evolved so that launching rockets from the Pacific Coast actually makes sense:
Launches from the East Coast, using Florida's famed Cape Canaveral, have at least two benefits: Rockets can follow a safe, eastward arc over the open expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, and, in the process, they gain a slight boost from the Earth's rotation. From Vandenberg Air Force Base, however, a sprawling site overlooking the Pacific, rockets have only one sensible option: a southern route over the sea. Until the advent of the Atlas V rocket in 2002, however, there hadn't been the power to launch south and pursue what NASA calls a "planetary trajectory." As technology improves, so does California's appeal as a launch site. [The Atlantic]
As The Atlantic concludes, "more rockets will be coming." Read more about southern California's transformation here. Jeva Lange