New York Space Society Chapter of the National Space Society

 

 

 

REPORT ON THE PUBLIC HEARINGS OF

THE MOON, MARS & BEYOND COMMISSION

By Eugene Cervone

 

 

On May 3-4, 2004, the fifth and final public hearing of President Bush's special 9-member Commission on the Moon, Mars & Beyond (officially known as thePresident's Commission on the Implementation of U. S. Space Exploration Policy, was held at the Asia Society in New York City. These crucial Commission hearings were attended by several officers of the National Space Society's New York City Chapter including myself, President Candace Pankanin and Vice President Harold Egeln, in addition to a few other chapter members.Also in attendance were Paul Contursi, President of the Mars Society of NewYork, Taylor Dinermann, an officer of the New York Space Foundation's SpaceEquity.com chapter and Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, an avid spaceactivist.

 

The major objectives and purpose of these critically important public hearings was to assist the Commission appointed by President Bush and chaired by the Honorable Edward "Pete" Aldridge, a former Undersecretary of the Air Force, in forming a consensus opinion and selecting a variety of long range strategies around which various recommendations can be proposed on how to best implement the President's bold, visionary space initiative. This innovative space initiative designed to, at long last, break our manned space exploration program out of low Earth orbit for the first time since the final Apollo 17 moon mission in December 1972, was formally announced by

President Bush during his January 14, 2004 address to the Nation in the aftermath of the tragic Columbia accident and the thorough investigation that followed. It proposes gradually phasing out the aging space shuttle orbiters by 2010 after the International Space Station

is scheduled to be completed and replacing them with a newly designed state-of-the-art Crew Exploration Vehicle for various manned missions beyond low Earth orbit. The President's visionary space initiative also calls for the return of humans to the lunar surface by no

later than 2020 followed by an eventual manned mission to Mars.

 

The distinguished members of the Commission included:

 

Ms. Carly Fiorina, Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett Packard. REPORT ON THE PUBLIC HEARINGS OF

Mr. Michael Jackson, (not the one from the Jackson 5), Senior Vice President of AECOM Technology Corporation.

 

Dr. Laurie Teshin, Director of the Arizona State University's Center for Meteorite Studies.

 

General Lester Lyles, Commander of the Air Force Materiel Command.

 

Dr. Paul Spudis, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab.

 

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist and Director of the state-of-the-art Hayden Planetarium in New York City, who recently served

on the President's Future of the U. S. Aerospace Industry Commission. Dr. Tyson gave a very interesting and informative presentation

at the March 13 National Space Society New York City Chapter meeting explaining his role on the Commission and its objectives.

During his lecture, Dr. Tyson emphasized the little known fact that NASA's current expenditures represent a total of only .7 percent of

the entire annual federal spending budget in sharp contrast to the Defense Department's current annual spending budget expenses which

are typically about 25 times larger than NASA's.

 

The Honorable Robert Walker, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, a firm specializing

In telecommunications and technology issues and who, in addition, recently served as the Chairman on the President's Future of the U. S. Aerospace Industry Commission on which fellow Commission member Dr. Neil Tyson also served.

 

Dr. Maria Zuber, the E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and Planetary Scientists at M.I.T. and finally last, but certainly not least:

 

Mr. Steven Schmidt, the Executive Director of the Commission and Special Assistant to NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe.

 

Over the course of 2 days, the Moon, Mars & Beyond Commission heard testimony from a broad range of experts from the aerospace and

telecommunications industries as well as astrophysicists, astronomers and various pro space organizations like the National Space and Planetary Societies among others, in addition to a variety of comments and questions from selected members of the audience and a few people who called in to express their opinions via phone.

 

Chairman Pete Aldridge welcomed attendees to the Commission's fifth and final public hearings and announced this hearing would be the first to focus on building long-term international partnerships in space. Chairman Aldridge then introduced the first panel on "International Space Partnerships." This panel consisted of Mr. Daniel Sacotte, Director of Space Exploration at the European Space Agency (E.S.A.),

Mr. Kiyoshi Higuchi, Executive Director of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mr. Philippe Beterottiere, Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Customer Programs for Arianespace.

 

Mr. Sacotte's testimony focused on four major points: (1) a brief description of the 15-member state E.S.A. and its various operations;

(2) E.S.A.'s ongoing and planned activities in space exploration; (3) international cooperation at E.S.A. and how it works and

(4) the European vision of international space exploration.

 

Mr. Higuchi said the President's vision for space exploration is "very attractive and challenging" and explained how JAXA is currently seriously exploring plans for conducting unmanned lunar missions within the next decade. He mentioned JAXA would carefully consider areas of the President's bold space initiative in which it could participate after a detailed program is developed.

 

In his testimony, Mr. Berterottiere provided a brief overview of Arianespace, the world's first commercial launch service. Its European

customers have selected to operate three space launch vehicles the heavy lift being Ariane 5, the medium lift Soyuz and the lightweight Vega rocket. The workhorse of the program is the Ariane 5; it currently launches in two configurations for various satellites to reach low

Earth orbit (LEO), geo-transfer and lunar orbits. Arianespace is currently testing a more powerful upper stage for the Ariane 5 and is

studying building new facilities designed to accommodate human spaceflight in the future, possibly to service the International Space Station. All launches are from Europe's equatorial spaceport in French Guiana, South America.

 

Mr. Berterottiere concluded his testimony by urging the Commission to actively consider the varied capabilities of European aerospace companies and their ability to partner with U. S. firms to achieve various space exploration goals. The members of the Commission then asked the panelists a variety of questions concerning their testimony and thanked them for their time.

 

Chairman Aldridge introduced the next panel on "Lunar & Other Space Science". The distinguished speakers on this panel included

Dr. Tony Tether, Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); Dr. John Delano, Professor, Departments

of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences & Chemistry at the University of Albany (State University of New York); and Dr. Ariel Anbar,

Biochemist & Associate Professor in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester.

 

Dr. Tether discussed DARPA and its various projects and duly noted that current DARPA research efforts related to the President's

space initiative included: positional location in space, advanced communication protocols, extremely large deployable antennas and

long endurance space flight. He explained how DARPA has looked at the possibility of using pulsars as location sources in space

similar to the way Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) are used as reference points for earth positioning. In response to a question from Chairman Aldridge concerning the organizational structure of DARPA as compared to that of NASA, Dr. Tether noted there are very few,

if any, "career" people working at DARPA and the average employment period is about 4 to 6 years for virtually all DARPA employees resulting in a fluid workforce that continually allows changes to occur.

 

Dr. Delano pointed out the numerous important scientific questions that could be addressed in detail by the President's visionary space initiative, especially the further exploration of the lunar surface. He expressed how the moon has managed to preserve a rich, accessible, long-duration geochemical memory, including the first 600 million years of the solar system's existence and how our nearest neighbor

might also contain pieces of other planets that could possibly serve as "Rosetta Stones" in order to gain a better perspective and understanding of the history of these planets inour solar system.

 

Dr. Anbar, a Biogeochemist, concurred with Dr. Delano that a long-duration return to the moon by humans could help answer numerous fundamental science questions beyond lunar science. He said in order to better understand the origins of life on earth, we need to study a much older, permanent part of the geologic record than is available on earth and the moon provides us with an excellent historical geologic record.

 

After the Commission took a short break, it was finally time for ChairmanAldridge to introduce the panelists most of us from the National Space Society and other pro space organizations in this country and throughout the world had been anxiously waiting to hear testify, especially our very own recently appointed Executive Director, George Whitesides. Chairman Aldridge then formally introduced the

"Space to the People!" panelists, which included George Whitesides, Executive Director of the National Space Society; Nick Eltimiades, founder of the Federation of Galaxy Explores; Frederick Hauck, a former shuttle astronaut representing the Association of

Space Explorers and Dr. Louis Friedman, Executive Director of the Planetary Society.

 

Mr. Whitesides began his testimony by duly noting what a truly perceptive title "Space to the People" is to bring into these last conversations on the President's bold, visionary space initiative. He described this very perceptive title as an utterly fantastic call to include in the final public hearing of the Commission. Mr. Whitesides noted the National Space Society,originally founded by Dr. Wernher von Braun in 1974, is a worldwide pro space organization with over 20,000 supporters, 250 chapters throughout the world dedicated to creating a spacefaring civilization alive with thriving communities beyond the earth. He stressed it was the American public who will ultimately determine the long range success of the President's vision, providing an "individual connection" can be established with the American

people.

 

Mr. Whitesides asked the Commission "how can we best shape the President's space initiative to engender sustained and robust public support for future space exploration?" He emphasized the need for widespread private enterprise from nations around the world to participate in the future exploration of our solar system by building an infrastructure that can be continually used by industry at a reasonable cost. Mr. Whitesides concluded his testimony by stating how critical it is for the U. S. to continue exploring space and the see President's bold vision blossom into a rich and growing reality. He added the National Space Society strongly supports the President's innovative space initiative and pledged to do everything it can to cooperate with the Commission in its vital mission.

 

Mr. Eltimiades discussed how the Federation of Galaxy Explorers (an organization founded by him about 2 years ago) has educated and put over 2,000 kids through space camp by utilizing about 300 dedicated volunteers. He said a key challenge for the Commission is to capitalize on the vision of hope for the future and look toward expanding our society into the solarsystem.

 

Mr. Hauck, a former shuttle astronaut, stated the Association of Space Explorers, which is composed of men and women who have flown

in space, strongly supports the view tat space exploration is a very worthwhile investment in our country's future. Its members applaud the President's commitment to a long-term human and robotic space exploration program and feel the government should provide various incentives to entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who are willing to take some of the financial risks by offering them the X-Prize and Centennial Challenge competitions. Mr. Hauck explained how the President's bold vision on future space exploration excites the

imagination and points the way to the eventual human exploration of Mars as the pioneering X-1 and X-15 experimental rocket planes

of the 1940's, 50's and 60's clearly demonstrated how humans could safely travel to the edge of space at supersonic and hypersonic speeds.

 

The final panelist of the day, Mr. Louis Friedman, duly noted he was representing the Planetary Society, a public interest group with the largest membership base of space-interest enthusiasts in the world. In 1980 Dr. Friedman, along with Carol Sagan and Bruce Murray,

co-founded the Planetary Society. He thanked the Commission for the invitation to testify and said the Planetary Society is currently conducting a major public campaign, "Aim For Mars" in order to demonstrate its strong support for the President's bold, visionary space initiative.

 

Dr. Friedman pointed out that although the President's new space policy calls for international cooperation in space exploration, which the

Planetary Society supports, there are, unfortunately, strong U. S. government restrictions currently in effect that present the use of the

world's over-supply of launch vehicles. He mentioned the tremendous public interest generated by the latest Mars rovers and described some of the Planetary Society's international projects and ventures with Japan, China and Russia (first solar sail spacecraft). Dr. Friedman also proposed an international lunar way station be seriously considered as a test bed for possible future planetary outposts and concluded his testimony by emphasizing the absolute need for international cooperation and explaining how the President's visionary space initiative must engage the public's image of space exploration and the importance of the Commissions role tomake it a reality.

 

Dr. Tyson commented that the membership roles in the National Space society and Planetary Society have declined somewhat in recent years; however, the numbers seem to indicate there is a fairly significant grass roots interest in space exploration.

 

Mr. Walker pointed out many pro space groups are able to organize well to hold regular meetings and put together various newsletters, but haven't really done a very good job of organizing politically and writing letters to their elected officials expressing the views and opinions of their respective organizations regarding the current direction of America's space exploration program. He revealed right now things are so close in the House and Senate; just a few key swing votes can considerably change the outcome of NASA's annual budget. Mr. Walker challenged the panelists to make a sincere effort and to strongly urge the pro space groups they represent commit to do a better job of organizing politically and asked if they were up to the challenge. Mr. Whitesides of the National Space Society immediately answered "yes" and agreed this was a great opportunity for all pro space groups to mobilize politically. Dr. Friedman concurred and added a new technology was needed to better politically activate and organize hisnumerous members.

 

Chairman Aldridge thanked all the panelists for taking the time to testify and then adjourned the first day of hearings.

 

 

Chairman Aldridge opened the second and final day of Commission hearings by announcing after the official proceedings were concluded, there would be a press conference followed by a deliberation session of the Commissioners which would be open to the public.

 

Chairman Aldridge then introduced the first speaker on the topic of "Sustainability & Management", "Mr. Roger Krone, Senior Vice President of Army Systems for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. Mr. Krone indicated Boeing's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program is a new state-of-the-art approach to land combat operations involving a "network centric", systems-of-systems strategy. He pointed out the FCS program's incentive fees are based on the completion of designated milestones that would help motivate the contractor to provide maximum satisfaction to the Army. Mr. Krone mentioned how this program efficiently uses the Lead System Integrator LSI) approach to in effect act as a "general contractor".

 

Mr. Jackson commenting on Mr. Krone's testimony observed that as an integral part of the President's visionary space initiative, the Commission is seeking a theme for the building of an extensive space industry, not just a space program which is a somewhat less

complex operation than in the private sector.

 

Chairman Aldridge then introduced the distinguished members of the next panel, "Astrophysics for the Beyond". The panelists included:

 

Dr. Catherine Pilachowski, President of the American Astronomical Society (AAS); Dr. William Smith, President of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and Dr. David Spergel, Professor in the Department of Astrophysical Science at Princeton University.

 

Dr. Pilachowski began her testimony by saying scientific research is the most fundamental form of exploration and because the President's bold space exploration vision challenges us to think on a bigger scale about the exploration of the universe, it must transcend short-term goals. She noted a recent National Research Council (NRC) report stressed the importance of the interplay between space science and exploration research and encouraged NASA to have a balanced program. Dr. Pilachowski explained that although various astronomical facilities are not the rationale for humans returning to the moon or exploring Mars, astronomy could benefit from a robust lunar

and Mars exploration program.

 

Dr. Smith discussed the possibility of building major observatories on the lunar surface and perhaps at the gravitationally stable Lagrangian points, provided an advance robotics program can be developed to regularly service and repair these state-of-the-art space telescopes. He pointed out it's unclear at this time whether that type of advanced in-space robotics program is a major feature of the President's space initiative.

 

Dr. Spergel spoke about the far-reaching implications of the new space vision for astrophysics and noted how the search for exosolar planets

orbiting around other distant stars excites both scientists and the public. He explained how there's been remarkable progress over the last few years in developing technology to detect Earth-like planets any signs of life beyond our solar system and added that the combination of the two scheduled Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) telescope missions will be a particularly powerful tool in assisting astronomers and astrophysicists to detect possible extraterrestrial life over the next few decades.

 

In response to a question from Dr. Tyson asking how we should, in practice, best approach various scientific and engineering goals with the ever changing technology of the future, Dr. Spergel suggested the space exploration initiative, as well as other innovative scientific projects,

should be able to obtain expert advice from an ongoing Federal Advisory Committee consisting of top scientists, technologists and engineers from various fields.

 

Mr. Walker observed that NASA's budget isn't the only source for funding worthwhile scientific projects and pointed out the National Science

Foundation's (NSF) annual budgets are expanding. He suggested perhaps the National Science Foundation could make a significant contribution to certain aspects of the President's space initiative.

 

After a brief morning break, Chairman Aldridge noted that the next topic of discussion, "Space Prosperity, Competitiveness & Resource Development," is one of the four major themes of these Commission hearings and introduced the next group of panelists. The included:

 

Mr. John Higginbotham, founder of Space Vest; Mr. Joel Greenberg, President of Princeton Synergetics and Dr. Myles Walton, a leading researcher at Morgan Stanley.

 

Mr. Higginbotham opened the testimony by noting the space industry of today includes the public sector, various commercial applications and technology platforms. He indicated the various economic benefits associated with the new, exciting technologies that will undoubtedly be developed as a result of the President's space initiative justify a considerable public investment. Mr. Higginbotham stressed the absolute importance of effectively communicating these various economic benefits to the general public and commercial marketplace.

 

Mr. Greenberg warned that an extensive, long-term, multi-phase research and development (R&D) program would be an essential requirement for manned missions to the moon and Mars. He emphasized we must anticipate there will, unfortunately, probably be some failures along the way and have a viable, cost-effective contingency plan in place to set specific guidelines for when to "turn off" a particular R & D program. Mr. Greenberg also indicated his deep concern with the impact the President's space initiative would have on future service missions to the Hubble Space Telescope and our eventual withdrawal from the International Space Station program.

 

Dr. Walton spoke about the relationships Morgan Stanley currently has or intends to have with the various aerospace industries and pointed out the commercial space industry has experienced its share of problems with several contractors over the years. He noted investors are currently reluctant to invest in the commercial space industry market and are willing to pay for three things - predictability, visibility and profitability. He explained that business models in space are hard to predict and although space has some very interesting products associated with it, that's not enough to sustain the long-term visibility investors are looking for in today's market.

 

The continued high cost of launching the space shuttle (approximately $500 million per launch) and obtaining adequate insurance protection for numerous state-of-the-art commercial satellites are major factors in profitability for potential investors. Dr. Walton said he felt space imagery is a good example of a high value service that can readily produce a steady profit in today's marketplace. He indicated the X-Prize was a positive influence, which provided a proving ground for new products and served as an incentive for private investors to develop various innovative state-of-the-art aerospace technologies. Legendary aerospace designer Burt Rutan's Space-Ship-One vehicle is a leading contender in the heated X-Prize competition and is scheduled to attempt its first manned suborbital flight in late June. In response to a question from Mr. Walker regarding the size of the X-Prize, Dr. Walton stated that there is a considerable capital investment needed to compete for the prize at the end of the journey and it's the tremendous amount of effort required to reach that goal which is

truly important.

 

For the next panel of guest speakers, Chairman Aldridge introduced two additional members of International Space Agencies; Dr. Marc Garneau, President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and Dr. Volker Leibig, Program Director of the German Aerospace Center.

 

Dr. Garneau emphasized Canada's role as a reliable partner in the International Space Station (ISS) and explained how, over the years, its

participation in the ongoing ISS project represented a major challenge. He said the Canadian Space Agency was proud of its various contributions to the ISS, especially the specialized robotic system that is critical for assembly and maintenance. Dr. Garneau also mentioned Canada's primary objective on board the ISS was the use of the unique laboratory in the critical micro gravity environment for various scientific experiments. He concluded his testimony by stressing how national political considerations should not be allowed to hinder the ISS's program progress and that sensible export control guidelines should be established in order to help vitally important

information flow more freely among all partners.

 

Dr. Leibig opened his testimony by stating the major priorities of the European Union countries included various Earth observing systems,

monitoring the environment and developing new, advanced global communication systems. He noted the German built Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) would be ready by next year to help supplement the Russian "Progress" transport for cargo delivery to the ISS. Dr. Leibig emphasized the importance of the ISS to Germany's space program and expressed concern about the scheduled retirement of the Space Shuttle Orbiters in 2010 and the abrupt termination of the X-38 spaceplane project which would have provided an escape vehicle

for the ISS using German built parts. He pointed out how Germany's expertise in various aerospace materials, especially thermal protection

systems, advanced laser communications and space robotics plus the development of a reliable second-generation life support system all could play a considerable role in the space exploration initiative.

 

After concluding his testimony, Dr. Leibig responded to a question from Mr. Walker concerning increased funding on future space projects by the European Union by indicating his agency consistently lobbies the German government for increased space spending for various programs. In response to a question from Dr. Spudis regarding U. S. commitments to the ISS, Dr. Leibig expressed his concern about crew size, noting a crew of at least six is needed to accomplish any meaningful scientific experiments and research. Dr. Garneau pointed out the U. S. has committed to support various research projects on the ISS until 2016 and said viable research could only be accomplished with the proper amount of mass transfer capability.

 

Chairman Aldridge then called a one-hour recess for lunch before welcoming the next panel of special guests to discuss the topic of "The Media & The Big Picture." Testifying on this panel were Mr. Rick Gelfond, Co-Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer of the IMAX Corporation; Mr. David Levy, Science Editor of Parade Magazine and co-discover of the infamous Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 that crashed

into Jupiter in 1994 and of 20 other comets; and Mr. Craig Covault, Senior Editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology.

 

Mr. Gelfond fondly noted that various IMAX features are currently showing in about 30 countries throughout the world with the most popular one in China being the spectacular 3-D presentation of the International Space Station(ISS) narrated by actor Tom Cruise. He proudly pointed out IMAX has produced five imaginative space films that have been seen by over 85 million people all over the world and

emphasized the tremendous excitement and inspiration IMAX space films generate to numerous viewers from all walks of life and sectors

of the economy. Mr. Gelfond concluded his testimony be mentioning a spectacular new IMAX 3-D space film currently in production,

"Magnificent Desolation", which tells the story about the 12 astronauts who walked on the moon and what they went through, especially

the unique problems all of them experienced on their long journey.

 

Mr. Levy suggested in our post 9/11 culture of fighting to preserve our way of life, it's especially important we strive to make our future vision of manned space exploration to the Moon, Mars & Beyond an all inclusive vision by emphasizing the need for science education. He noted that along with space exploration, our government should fund the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's proposal for global observing that would accurately record the various conditions of our planet's land masses, oceans and atmosphere to reliably forecast

major weather events over a sever day period. Mr. Levy concluded by explaining how important it is to first establish a permanent base on the moon and then expand our efforts to study how various lunar resources can best be utilized and eventually visit a near Earth asteroid

and then Mars.

 

Mr. Covault stated Aviation Week has been deeply involved in a variety of human and robotic space operations for many years and clearly sees the numerous benefits and challenges of conducting space business with several nations around the world. He noted China's space exploration program is very real and rapidly expanding, including an increasingly large number of Chinese engineers. Mr. Covault explained the recent success of the Mars Rovers has inspired Aviation Week to explore what it can do on the news and education side to help

promote manned and robotic space exploration. He pointed out although NASA has lost the media and much of the public on the

ISS, once assembly restarts with the return to service of the space shuttle, NASA has a chance to win the media and most of the public back on the basis of improved foreign policy and relations and the effective use of the ISS as a viable foothold for a lunar/Mars initiative. Mr. Covault concluded by saying many of the robotic space missions are becoming so productive they might significantly delay or even reduce future human space exploration.

 

Dr. Tyson observed that Parade Magazine is the largest and loudest of the media mouthpieces pointing out Mr. Levy is among the most articulate and then asked how much more powerful a voice can we have? He added in spite of the great popularity and success of Parade Magazine and Mr. Levy, not more than half the public supports NASA's space exploration missions. Mr. Levy indicated to remedy this problem we must do a much better job of teaching science education programs in all our schools and making these various

science programs more accessible and understandable to the general public.

 

After a brief recess, Chairman Aldridge welcomed the final witness, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. Mr. O'Keefe opened his

testimony by recounting the tragic Columbia accident and the aftermath of the extremely thorough investigation that clearly defined the cause of this tragedy while making various detailed recommendations on how to best fix he problem and return the aging shuttle fleet

back to service as soon as possible. He stated the much broader objective for NASA was to seek a clarification of our nation's

comprehensive long range space exploration goals and establish a sustained fiscally responsible program for achieving these

worthwhile goals.

 

Mr. O'Keefe pointed out the President's visionary space initiative utilized a coordinated approach of several comprehensive options involving various agencies to help formulate a long range policy for implementing his bold space exploration objectives over the next couple of decades. He then played a very interesting video that clearly illustrated and summarized exactly how the various components of the President's coordinated strategy should be assembled and said the clarity of President Bush's bold space initiative has greatly helped focus NASA's future direction and may possible involve a major reorganization of the agency's structure.

 

Mr. O'Keefe emphasized our future space exploration missions will not be an Apollo-like program with only one specific objective but rather a more comprehensive affordable program that is a journey, not a race. He stressed international cooperation and participation will be an essential factor in the success of future space exploration and the development of a viable, productive space industry. Mr. O'Keefe duly noted NASA's immediate objectives were to return the 3 remaining space shuttle orbiters to service as soon as possible (hopefully by no later than March 2005) and completing assembly of the ISS over the next few years.

 

He concluded his testimony to the Commission by expressing NASA's desire to continually improve the technology on its various robotics' techniques, like the Mars Rovers, in order to expand their numerous applications and uses. NASA is currently seriously considering the possibility of using special new advanced robotic techniques on future Hubble service missions and is actively exploring the possible use of an innovative state-of-the-art nuclear fission powered exploration spacecraft on a proposed future Neptune orbiter mission in addition to a unique nuclear powered electric propulsion system to be used on the scheduled Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter spacecraft

within the next decade.

 

Chairman Aldridge expressed concern regarding uncertainties for the funding of the President's space initiative in 2005 and the shuttle and ISS delays. Mr. O'Keefe responded when Congress decides to act on the funding in its 2005 budget deliberations, NASA will gladly provide all the necessary details according to the President's stated approach. He added NASA's 2005 budget is currently in doubt mainly because neither chamber of Congress has acted on any appropriation bill to date and assured the Commission NASA is continuing to move forward to fully comply with every recommendation of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB).

 

In response to a question from Dr. Tyson regarding confusion on Capitol Hill concerning NASA's performance and future objectives, Mr. O'Keefe indicated the Agency has worked hard over the last 2 years to restore its credibility and must continue to do so for the long hall. He noted his recent appointment, as NASA Administrator didn't fit the usual pattern of selection since the Agency's formation in 1958.

 

Ms. Fiorina asked Mr. O'Keefe to comment on the difference between reorganization (or restructuring) and transformation as it relates to NASA. He indicated the major difference is reorganization generally involves increasing efficiency in order to accomplish a specific set of objectives or goals while transformation means adjusting or changing the way you look at and approach a broader, more strategic long range program like the President's visionary space initiative.

 

Responding to a question from Mr. Walker concerning NASA's 2005 budget, Mr. O'Keefe noted 85% of the increase is for returning the space shuttle orbiters to flight and the space station.

 

General Lyles asked given the President's space initiative, will NASA now evolve as a space agency alone or will it continue to include the

aeronautics aspects? Mr. O'Keefe responded there would still most likely be a natural fit for aeronautics as various aerospace technologies evolve, especially in materials and structures design research. He mentioned the state-of-the-art X-43 technology currently being developed by NASA as a possible future alternative to vertical launch dependency.

 

The Commission then fielded a variety of questions and comments from the audience whose names were chosen by Chairman Aldridge at random in a drawing. Perhaps the most appealing and intriguing comments from the audience were made by a young man, Adam Glass who said in part "Space is cool and interesting and needs to be presented that way. We need more people who can talk about what NASA is doing in an interesting way. NASA needs to be at the schools to reach young people interested in space." It seems Adam's comments drew the most enthusiastic reaction from the audience.

 

 

The Commission then conducted a brief press conference, followed by an opened deliberation of the Commissioners, which the public was invited to attend.

 

Perhaps among the most interesting deliberation comments were those of Dr. Tyson and Dr. Spudis.

 

Dr. Tyson duly noted the Commission reflected on the important and significant need for the public to take ownership of the President's

visionary space initiative and used our early Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts as an example. He pointed out how the public has taken ownership of the Hubble Space Telescope and said with the ambitious space initiative plan; we'll soon be able to build large structures at the gravitationally stable Lagrangian points. Dr. Tyson indicated how we could think about building mini-factories in space and on the moon and converting carbon dioxide into fuel.

 

Dr. Spudis commented using various space resources is one of the most visionary aspects of the exploration initiative and that the moon contains all the necessary materials and resources to build a viable space infrastructure. He pointed out the moon consists of about 40% oxygen along with hydrogen plus some other elements and we know how to extract oxygen for various purposes and uses.

 

Other recommendations currently under consideration by the Commission are the establishment of a permanent Space Academy to assist in the training of perspective future astronauts and expanded educational opportunities and media coverage of NASA including various magazine ads and TV commercials. The development of innovative thinking contests, like the X-Prize, for young people sponsored by the Government and major aerospace and defense contractors like Lockheed-Martin and Boeing are also under consideration as

recommendations by the Commission.

 

On behalf of the Commission, Chairman Aldridge thanked all the witnesses who testified and everyone in the audience for attending and participating in the 2 days of public hearings and then adjourned the proceedings. The Commission's official final report is due sometime in early June.

 

 

AD ASTRA!

 

New York Chapter

 


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