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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Lunar Landing Impact, 50 Years Later


By Rand Stephens (Houston)

Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, Americans, and people all over the world celebrated American astronauts landing on the moon – a triumph for humankind. It will forever be the most famous footsteps in human history. The reminiscing, the celebrations, the activities and the news stories of the anniversary have Houston buzzing with excitement.

The inception of the Johnson Space Center (originally dubbed Manned Spacecraft Center), which is located southeast of Houston in Clear Lake, has also left an enormous footprint that created jobs, communities and transformed the commercial landscape of the Clear Lake region. Almost overnight, it went from oil town to Space City after President Kennedy’s historic, ‘We choose to go to the moon’ speech at Rice University in 1962.

 "Houston, your city of Houston, with its Manned Spacecraft Center, will become the heart of a large scientific and engineering community."    - President John F. Kennedy, Rice University, 1962
Along with the Johnson Space Center came aerospace and engineering companies that contract with NASA on space projects. Training centers, testing facilities, plants, office buildings and residential communities soon replaced the ranch land that previously covered the area. The growth of the area exploded following the lunar lift off and as NASA turned its focus to the Space Shuttle program. However, after the cancellation of the Constellation program in 2009, thousands of layoffs rippled through NASA and the research and engineering workforce. That kind of blow also had a major impact on the office market, which has struggled to recover.

The stars may be aligning once again for the Clear Lake area as NASA aims to return to the moon on the Orion and build a small space station called the Gateway as early as 2024. This could launch leasing activity in this area which has been lackluster for a decade.

Happy anniversary Apollo 11!

 (Rand Stephens is a Principal of Avison Young and Managing Director of the company’s Houston office.)

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