Los Angeles is an open-air museum of aerospace history. It is a city of abandoned missile-defense facilities and stealth-jet assembly plants, of erased airfields and repurposed hangars, flagships of another era standing dormant but unnoticed in plain sight. First lost to the secrecy of war, then overlooked as mundane industry, this earlier version of the metropolis is stirring once again, as private space investment promises to turn Southern California into the nation’s spaceport. Los Angeles, city of terrestrial stars, is becoming a gateway to celestial stars anew.

“Southern California as we know it would not exist without aerospace,” the historian Peter Westwick has written. The industry transformed the region, in his words, “from a collection of agricultural groves to a sprawling high-tech nexus on the Pacific Rim,” one whose military and financial power spanned the entire 20th century. There is no single reason why this “aerospace century” came to an end in Southern California, although the end of the Space Race and, later, the Cold War’s rapid thaw decreased the industry’s national urgency. Aircraft like the SR-71 were mothballed and replaced. Spy satellite imagery was declassified and put to use in other arenas, seeding the ground for today’s private satellite-mapping renaissance. Some firms packed up entirely, others were swallowed whole by corporate mergers, and the rest moved east, back into the powerful financial and political orbit of Washington, D.C.

But aerospace in Los Angeles never completely disappeared. Like fossils hidden in the sand, this previous, sky-bound version of L.A. may be hard to spot, but even its most well-disguised traces are still detectable. In the neighborhoods near LAX, streets bear names such as Jack Northrup Avenue and Rocket Road. At the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, across from where the Los Angeles County Museum of Art now stands, Cecil …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Technology


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