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Nelson says Florida’s space industry is booming (Courtesy of WJXT-TV) — The space industry is booming in Florida, and NASA’s chief administrator, former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, says it’s only going to grow in the coming years.

Nelson talked moon landings, Mars and commercial space development at a meeting of the Economic Club of Florida Friday afternoon.

Floridians in the northeastern part of the state were startled Thursday night by a sonic boom produced as a SpaceX capsule returned to Earth.

Nelson said it’s probably going to become a more common occurrence.

“All of those old, abandoned launch pads from way back in the early space days, they’re all coming to life,” said Nelson.

Nelson said that Florida’s space industry is booming as a whole, and it’s not slowing anytime soon.

“If you add it all up, it’s about $4 billion a year of dollar impact in the state of Florida just from the space business,” said Nelson.

As recently as this week, plans were announced to build a new $300 million satellite manufacturing plant in Florida.

Nelson said to expect more where that came from.

“Because it’s economical for them to do the manufacturing of satellites, that they are then going to put up in space, right from the launch center,” said Nelson.

Nelson said that in the not-so-distant future, humans will be landing on the moon once a year and will see a manned mission to Mars within the next 20 years.

“We are in a whole new era of space activity. We are going back to the moon. We’re going to learn on the moon what we need to know, and within your lifetime, we’re going to the planet Mars,” said Nelson.

Nelson said NASA plans to launch an unmanned mission to the moon early next year.

The agency has set a goal of sending the first woman and astronaut of color to the lunar surface by 2024.

One thing is certain, no matter what the future of space exploration holds, expect Florida to be at the center of it all.