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Wed, Feb 27, 2008

Spaceport Plans Draw Protestors Along Florida's Space Coast

One Proposal Calls For Launch Facility At Wildlife Sanctuary

If you propose to take one of America's most popular wildlife sanctuaries and turn it into a spaceport, you're pretty much guaranteed to get a turnout at your public hearing.

NASA is proposing that 200 acres of Florida's Merritt Island national Wildlife Sanctuary be taken for use as a private-sector space launch facility. Among the hundreds of protestors packing Titusville City Council chambers Monday were birdwatchers, nude-recreationalists, and even former NASA engineers.

The Orlando Sentinel reports NASA will hold two more public meetings on Thursday in New Smyrna Beach to gather information and public reaction. A final environmental assessment is expected in September.

"That you would even consider it boggles my mind," said Orlando resident Wes Biggs at the Titusville meeting, one of two recent gatherings in the area. "The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge isn't just another refuge. It's one of the jewels of the federal wildlife system, and it is known worldwide."

Many meeting attendees so far are urging NASA to direct the new development to the abandoned area called "Missile Row" at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"We suggest instead that NASA negotiate with the US Air Force for the long unused property once known as Missile Row, an area south of the Atlas launch pad, nearer to where the Delta rockets are currently launched," said local nudist Robert Allen.

NASA officials respond they lack authority to do so, because the facility is still controlled by the Air Force. But Allen wonders how big a problem that really is. "After all, it is simply taking it from one federal pocket and putting it in another," he noted.

We know, we know... that's an interesting comment from a guy who doesn't believe in pockets.

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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