For the past 70 years, Colorado has played a central role in the evolution of our country's aerospace industry. In fact, Colorado now has the second-largest aerospace economy in the United States.
Take a drive along the Front Range and you are likely to pass signs for Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace or United Launch Alliance - just to name a few of the nation's eight major space contractors that have a presence in Colorado, including more than 400 companies that provide space-related products. Many of you have neighbors who make up the more than 150,000 employees of the aerospace industry in our state -- you might even be one of them. Since 2006, we have seen a growth of almost 7 percent in Colorado's aerospace field.
To say we have a vested interest in the aerospace industry is an understatement. Tell me your story about how space exploration and Colorado's aerospace industry affects your life.
Just as Colorado was once our nation's western frontier, it is only fitting that Colorado businesses are now helping our nation explore new frontiers on Mars. Many Colorado companies helped engineer, develop and launch the Mars Curiosity Rover. As the rover continues to move about the planet, some of the collected data will be processed in our towns, helping us learn more so we can continue leading the way in the science and technology industry. The successful launch of the largest rover yet to reach the red planet is a visible reminder of just how much our state stands to gain by investing more in the aerospace industry.
Another recent reminder came when Sierra Nevada Space Systems of Louisville received $212.5 million in competitive grant funds from NASA. The grant will make it possible for Sierra Nevada Space Systems to take its Dream Chaser Program to a manned orbital demonstration flight. The Dream Chaser will complement another space-exploration vehicle being built right here in Colorado - the Orion capsule from Lockheed Martin - proving once again that Colorado is a worldwide leader in space technology. I am confident that Colorado, as well as Sierra Nevada, Lockheed Martin and many other aerospace companies that call our state home, will continue to revitalize and revolutionize our nation's exploration of space.
We lost a true pioneer and icon of space exploration last week with the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. As he reminded us, we should always shoot for the stars - even if we miss, we might still land on the moon.
Supporting this critical, multibillion-dollar industry means jobs for today, tomorrow and for generations to come. That said, we will only progress as a nation if our nation invests in progress.
Share your thoughts with me about space exploration and the future of Colorado's role in the aerospace industry, and then share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you!