2,400 Jobs for Florida’s Space Coast


President Obama is committed to NASA’s mission — and I especially like the promise of employment in and around The Cape.

I’m puzzled by the apparent disagreement among the first moon walkers, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

First, the letter signed by Armstrong, Lovell and Cernan

The United States entered into the challenge of space exploration under President Eisenhower’s first term, however, it was the Soviet Union who excelled in those early years. Under the bold vision of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and with the overwhelming approval of the American people, we rapidly closed the gap in the final third; of the 20th century, and became the world leader in space exploration.

America’s space accomplishments earned the respect and admiration of the world. Science probes were unlocking the secrets of the cosmos; space technology was providing instantaneous world wide communication; orbital sentinels were helping man understand the vagaries of nature. Above all else, the people around the world were inspired by the human exploration of space and the expanding of man’s frontier. It suggested that what had been thought to be impossible was now within reach. Students were inspired to prepare themselves to be a part of this new age. No government program in modern history has been so effective in motivating the young to do ‘what has never been done before.’

World leadership in space was not achieved easily. In the first half century of the space age, our country made a significant financial investment, thousands of Americans dedicated themselves to the effort, and some gave their lives to achieve the dream of a nation. In the latter part of the first half century of the space age, Americans and their international partners focused primarily on exploiting the near frontiers of space with the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station.

As a result of the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003, it was concluded that our space policy required a new strategic vision. Extensive studies and analysis led to this new mandate: meet our existing commitments, return to our exploration roots, return to the moon, and prepare to venture further outward to the asteroids and to Mars. The program was named ‘Constellation’. In the ensuing years, this plan was endorsed by two Presidents of different parties and approved by both Democratic and Republican congresses.

The Columbia Accident Board had given NASA a number of recommendations fundamental to the Constellation architecture which were duly incorporated. The Ares rocket family was patterned after the Von Braun Modular concept so essential to the success of the Saturn 1B and the Saturn 5. A number of components in the Ares 1 rocket would become the foundation of the very large heavy lift Ares V, thus reducing the total development costs substantially. After the Ares 1 becomes operational, the only major new components necessary for the Ares V would be the larger propellant tanks to support the heavy lift requirements.

The design and the production of the flight components and infrastructure to implement this vision was well underway. Detailed planning of all the major sectors of the program had begun. Enthusiasm within NASA and throughout the country was very high.

When President Obama recently released his budget for NASA, he proposed a slight increase in total funding, substantial research and technology development, an extension of the International Space Station operation until 2020, long range planning for a new but undefined heavy lift rocket and significant funding for the development of commercial access to low earth orbit.

Although some of these proposals have merit, the accompanying decision to cancel the Constellation program, its Ares 1 and Ares V rockets, and the Orion spacecraft, is devastating.

America’s only path to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station will now be subject to an agreement with Russia to purchase space on their Soyuz (at a price of over 50 million dollars per seat with significant increases expected in the near future) until we have the capacity to provide transportation for ourselves. The availability of a commercial transport to orbit as envisioned in the President’s proposal cannot be predicted with any certainty, but is likely to take substantially longer and be more expensive than we would hope.

It appears that we will have wasted our current ten plus billion dollar investment in Constellation and, equally importantly., we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded.

For The United States, the leading space faring nation for nearly half a century, to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit for an indeterminate time into the future, destines our nation to become one of second or even third rate stature. While the President’s plan envisages humans traveling away from Earth and perhaps toward Mars at some time in the future, the lack of developed rockets and spacecraft will assure that ability will not be available for many years.

Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity. America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space. If it does, we should institute a program which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal.

Neil Armstrong
Commander, Apollo 11

James Lovell
Commander, Apollo 13

Eugene Cernan
Commander, Apollo 17

And here’s Buzz Aldrin’s piece in USA TODAY


Since the release of President Obama’s NASA budget for the next fiscal year, the debate over America’s future course in space has become unusually heated, resulting in a polarization of views that has divided Congress and many members of the space community. All want what is best for our nation, but few see a chance at a consensus that can bring us all together.
We’ll get that chance today.

The president will visit the Kennedy Space Center to air these views in a conference on America’s future in space. This meeting offers the administration, Congress and the American people our best — and possibly our only — chance to reach such a consensus. This is a reasonable way forward that builds on the president’s budget proposal while extending our reach ever deeper into space.

As I have said before, I agree broadly with the president’s plan because it contains many elements that I have advocated for years. These include a flexible path for exploration with a robust technology development program enabling the extension of the human presence to Mars. His plan avoids rerunning the moon race that America won 40 years ago and opens a new era for commercial space transportation after years of government dominance of access to low-Earth orbit.

We need specifics

These are good principles, to be sure. But the budget lacks key details. First, I think that the president needs to be clear that Mars is the ultimate goal. The stepping stones to the Red Planet might include missions such as flybys of comets, approaches to near-Earth objects, and finally a manned mission to the Martian moon Phobos. This flexible path would create the infrastructure and transportation systems that would enable commercial and international development near Earth.

NASA also should be clearer about the purpose behind investments in technology. For example, we can utilize the investments made in the Orion spacecraft to jump-start the development of a human deep-space exploration capability. And using the spare hardware left over from the assembly of the International Space Station, I propose we develop a prototype deep-space exploration vehicle that can be docked to and tested at the station.

Over time, astronauts at the station could then outfit the ship, making it capable of forays beyond low-Earth orbit, around the moon, then deeper into space — to near-Earth orbit crossing asteroids, and on to Mars. I also encourage the president to set a clear goal to develop the heavy lift capability needed for our journey to Mars. There are, in effect, placeholders for these programs in the $19 billion devoted to NASA in the president’s budget, but I think we deserve a greater level of clarity.

Restore America’s place

While transitioning the operation of crew delivery to private industry, it is important that the system we develop is capable of enabling broader commercial markets. To do this, the future plan should include the development of a reusable, space plane-like runway lander as the next generation of crew carrying space transport.

Other astronauts might have different views, and I respect them, but I believe that working with this president toward a consensus on how America can lead human exploration, commercialize that effort in a timely way as possible, and set our collective sites on Mars is more likely to create the kind of sustained effort, commitment and legacy that we all want to see. This seems more productive than simply opposing a change of course.

I also differ with the president’s plan in a few critical ways, one being that we should keep the space shuttle in flight while we develop a heavy-lift launch vehicle. This should be a national priority. These investments will give us a solid basis for the civil space program for decades to come.

These additions offer us the chance at a middle ground that preserves our highly specialized workforce, maintains critical access to space, and will enable us to maintain and service the International Space Station. Most important, we can re-establish American space leadership by reaching for this manned mission to Mars.

America’s future in space is worth the modest, additional investment that will be required by this flexible path. I hope that, as passions cool, we can all come together at this important meeting to bring our nation fully into a 21st century space program, one that is, as my friend Norm Augustine put it, "worthy of a great nation."

OK, both agree on leadership in space.  Especially Mars and deep space, and we can’t get there without a heavy-lift launcher. Manned space flight — and commercial space — need more heavy-lift rocket development and manufacturing.