Apollo legends see Historic Mission Control unveiled

December 1st, 2018

It was an historic sight – living legends who worked on the Apollo program reunited for a major milestone — the unveiling of restored Historic Mission Control consoles used to send humans to the Moon. The newly restored units arrived in a return flight to Ellington Airport by way of NASA’s Super Guppy.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center and NASA’s Johnson Space Center are leading the restoration of Historic Mission Control and this marked a major milestone in the ongoing campaign to restore a National Historic Landmark before Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary.

Designed to carry oversized cargo, the Super Guppy airlifted the consoles from the Cosmosphere, a space museum in Hutchinson, Kan. Luminaries of the Apollo program — Will Davidson, Ed Fendell, Robert Grilli, Milt Heflin, Denny Holt, James Kelly, Thomas Loe, Glynn Lunney, Merlin Merritt, Bill Moon, Bill Reeves, and Milt Windler – saw the restored consoles for the first time under a hangar at Ellington Airport.

Joining them were JSC Director Mark Geyer, Space Center Houston CEO William T. Harris, plus JSC Apollo Mission Control Restoration Project Manager Jim Thornton and Director of Flight Operations Brian Kelly.

“We want to keep the legacy of the Apollo-era alive and preserve Historic Mission Control,” said Harris. “Thanks to the combined efforts of so many people, future generations can experience this iconic room exactly as it was when Neil Armstrong made his historic first steps on the Moon.”

Time had taken a toll on the Mission Operations Control Room, used during the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle eras, and it was in acute need of restoration. Furnishings such as carpeting, tile, paperwork, coffee cups and ashtrays in the room are being collected and restored to recreate the appearance of an active Apollo era Mission Control room — how the area looked the moment the first Moon landing occurred on July 20, 1969.

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985, the control room celebrates human space exploration and inspires people from around the world who visit. Johnson Space Center, Space Center Houston and the City of Webster are working together to restore the room that made what seemed an inconceivable dream become a reality. Webster, a longtime supporter of Space Center Houston, gave a $3.5 million lead gift toward the $5 million restoration byThe Cosmosphere, which is restoring nearly two dozen consoles.

The restored Mission Control Room will be unveiled to the world in time for the Apollo 11 mission’s 50th anniversary and the City of Houston will host a month-long celebration, including a ribbon-cutting for the restored Mission Control room.

“On a Mission” campaign. Space Center Houston then led a 30-day funding campaign drawing more than 4,000 pledges from 15 countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany. The city of Webster matched the crowdfunding campaign gifts dollar-for-dollar up to $400,000 as a component of the lead gift. Current proceeds stand at approximately $4.5 million leaving $500,000 remaining to meet the $5 million On a Mission campaign goal.

The Magnificent Marvels of NASA

November 1st, 2018

NASA’s special 747 carries the shuttle above the Johnson Space Center.
Photo Credit: NASA/ Sheri Locke

Sumer Dene with a Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV), which is designed to safely navigate harsh terrain.

By Sumer Dene

Wonder is experienced, it can’t be taught. Through exploration and research, aerospace changes everything. NASA celebrates 60 years of encouraging passionate, dedicated individuals to go above and beyond what they see.

The Johnson Space Center, home of human spaceflight, made Bay Area Houston the thriving waterfront city it is today. Furthermore, NASA is voted year after year the best place to work in the federal government. The International Space Station improves lives through education and innovation to strengthen relationships with academia, government and private sector leaders. The space station is built piece-by-piece in orbit with the help of many nations. The modules are built in separate countries and first meet in space to be assembled. Friday nights at the space station, astronauts and cosmonauts join together to watch movies and share cuisine. They become family with an outlook that reaches beyond our scope.

Astronauts and Cosmonauts enjoy the pre-release of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the International Space Station.

Educating the world
Improved technology in robotics can lead to minimally invasive surgeries, safer cars, and mass harvesting of fruits and vegetables. Robotics engineer Lucien Junkin says, “The purpose of the Robotics Education program is to gather knowledge and spread it to the public. Failures are meant to teach you; the most important philosophy in engineering is safety, commitment and hard work.” Young adults overcome challenges with collaborative effort to reach competitive goals. NASA offers free educational programs and scholarships to help empower education in STEM. The Robotics Education program is in need of young leaders to build the future in technological development.

The highly-respected professionals involved in aeronautics push forward courageously in pursuit of a new frontier. NASA Public Affairs Officer Gary Jordan develops and hosts Houston’s first space podcast, “Houston, we have a podcast.” The podcast discusses many influential aspects of space travel live at Johnsons Space Center. It is released every Friday with various guests, sometimes including astronauts in orbit. Questions can be asked using hashtags #askNASA and #HWHAP on various social media accounts. “NASA shows that we are all connected. We are on the same mission and happy to explore new ways to make our lives better on Earth. It is important to communicate that with the public. Society is shaped by what we do today.” We have come a long way.

What has changed?
In the early 60s, it was easy to imagine space exploration. The lives of people and how they communicated was vastly different. A peaceful movement began to end all wars, remove barriers and expand consciousness through music and language. The youth wanted to end all wars so people would realize we are all parts to a greater whole. Traveling across the galaxy in an intergalactic world to save the human race was something first seen in black and white fantasy films.

NASA developed in 1958 during a crisis in the last “idealist” time in America. Hate, fear and propaganda spread through the use television and radio. Sixty years later, we long to connect, have our voices heard and be a part of something greater than us. Now, our generation faces many more distractions. “Hope” first begins with “Focus.”

NASA is working on robonauts to help human astronauts complete simple, repetitive and dangerous tasks in space.

The Vision
NASA looks forward to the future with a goal to solve pertinent problems and coexist peacefully. Intensive research help people live a better quality life and find answers to meaningful questions. The space center influences medical and technological advances, as well as society’s culture. Dr. Liz Warren is a NASA scientist who investigates how human physiology changes in microgravity. She leads a team to implement experiments in space. Cells change to a spherical, 3D structure and protein crystals grow perfectly in space, leading to a perfect environment for groundbreaking research in all life and physical sciences.

“Our bodies are capable of enduring and adapting to new environments. We explore because we want to push ourselves further to learn, grow and make an impact. We want the next generation to feel inspired.” Space research discovers ways to combat endemic disease, understand how the planet is evolving, and harness energy and resources sufficiently.

Space exploration has helped us understand human psychology. “The Overview Effect” is coined by Frank White as the cognizant shift in awareness some astronauts experience when viewing earth from the lunar surface. He describes space exploration as the “inevitable steps in the evolution of human society and consciousness.” On Earth, conflicts and differences divide people as our navigation system judges distance from our feet to the ground. Astronauts see 16 sunsets and sunrises each day and orbit earth every 90 minutes. In space, distance is measured expansively as the speed of light. There are no borders to separate the universe and humankind, opportunities are limitless when we work together on a mission.

JSC director Geyer speaks of America’s space leadership role today, in the future

October 1st, 2018

By Mary Alys Cherry and Kathryn Paradis

Knowing the human tendency to overlook the value of many outstanding things in our daily lives – things that become “old hat” – Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer reminded Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership members of the great value of the International Space Station, which has been circling the Earth for the past 18 years.

“Station is an incredible international achievement,” he said as he opened his address, “and I want to talk about the different pieces that make ISS so special. People may not be aware of the details surrounding the amount of utilization that is happening every day on Space Station.

“There are payload experiments – things we are pushing the envelope on – on how to live and work in space, which is really going to be important when we go to the moon and on to Mars. A Mars journey could take three years or longer. We’re learning about how the human body behaves and how it changes. We’re learning how to mitigate those things through exercise and nutrition. There’s an incredible amount of work that goes on every day; plus, we get some cool pictures!”

It also has helped the United States and Russia become space buddies, he explained.

Their space friendship began back at the turn of the century when the first international crew, commanded by American astronaut William M. Shepherd, arrived on a Russian Soyuz that launched on Oct. 31, 2000. Since that day, he said there has always been an American onboard Station.
“Station brings a symbol of national leadership in the world. We lead the rest of the world in space. I had a chance to meet with the U.S. ambassador in Russia when I was over there for a launch. He told me that as difficult as relationships are with the Russians, Space Station is the one thing, the one positive thing that we are doing together. That’s important.”

Then he cautioned, “Another thing to remember is that if the United States doesn’t lead in space, there’s another county that cannot wait to lead in space, and that’s China. We know that they are making efforts to do that.”

After briefly talking about the commercialization of space, he took the crowd into the future — the commercial opportunities the ISS offers and plans to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s to launch the Orion spacecraft on 21-day missions past the moon and back. And, how JSC will continue to be a key part of the integration of that program.

And, what about new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine? “He is extremely personable and very open, Geyer says. “He really likes to meet with teams and talking with the interns. He’s trying very hard, listening to people. I love working for him; he’s a great guy.”

Geyer, who was introduced by BAHEP Chairman and San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, began his NASA career in 1990 at JSC and has been here ever since. He has witnessed much during the ensuing years – both triumph and tragedy. His presentation left many with the feeling, however, that the best is yet to come both for NASA and for Johnson Space Center.

NASA assigns first crews to fly commercial spacecraft

September 1st, 2018

Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana addresses the standing room only crowd at JSC’s Teague Auditorium as NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer look on.

By Mary Alys Cherry

“We’re back,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told a rousing audience in the Johnson Space Center’s Teague Auditorium.

“This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know that we’re back – that we’re flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” he said as the crowd’s roar reached heights probably not heard around JSC in years.

Sweet words to everyone’s ears, especially the nine astronauts who were introduced as America’s first commercial crew astronauts – those who will help increase commercial companies’ involvement in low Earth orbit and possibly take over operation of the space station some day in the future and allow NASA to focus on deep space exploration.

A NEW ERA
“Today,” Bridenstine continued, “our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp. This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight. Today’s announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation’s leadership in space.”

Joining him on stage for the presentation were Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Boeing Defense, Space and Security CEO Leanne Caret and SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell, who each spoke briefly of their hopes for the future before the new NASA chief introduced the astronauts – five who will fly on Boeing’s Starliner and four who will man SpaceX’s Dragon.

NASA introduced the first U.S. astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station – an endeavor that will return astronaut launches to U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011. The nine astronauts introduced to crew Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are, from left, Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.

NASA intern and University of Texas student Stephanie Zeller shares a light moment with Sen.Ted Cruz, one of a number of elected officials at the ceremony at JSC’s Teague Auditorium.

“All of us are here today because we stand for something new and profound, built upon an amazing legacy, and it is personal for all of us,” Boeing executive Leanne Caret said. “Today we start a new chapter, and we’re so thrilled to be on this journey.” Both companies bring unique approaches and ideas to the development and testing of their systems, which is why NASA selected both companies in September 2014.

“The 7,000 women and men of SpaceX understand what a sacred honor this was for us to be part of this program, and for us to fly [NASA astronauts],” said SpaceX executive Gwynne Shotwell. “So thank you very much, we take it seriously, we won’t let you down.”

SEVERAL APPEARANCES
The stage presentation was one of several appearances by Bridenstine during a three-day visit to JSC. On his first morning, the 43-year-old Michigan native got a up-close look at the Orion mockup that is being readied for its major safety test in April to verify that its launch abort system can steer the capsule and astronauts inside it to safety in the event of an issue with the Space Launch System rocket when the spacecraft is under the highest aerodynamic loads it will experience during ascent for deep-space missions.

Next, he met with a select group of local reporters, answering a variety of questions about the future of the space station, the Gateway moon orbiting project that involves returning to the moon and is seen as a stepping stone to Mars, and the delays on the James Webb Telescope.

“NASA is doing things it has not done before, using government resources never done before,” he told reporters in a sit-down roundtable session, “and we want to be sure we do not have another gap.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, looks over the work being done in Building 9S at Johnson Space Center for the launch of the Orion mockup.

Bridenstine started his visit here at a reception at Space Center Houston where he addressed aerospace executives, local business people and elected officials, discussing a change in national space policy providing for an American-led integrated program with private sector partners for a return to the moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

The new policy, he said, calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.”

Bridenstine emphasized the importance of the word “sustainable” in the policy. He said, “When we talk about going to the moon, this time to stay, we want the entire architecture between Earth and the moon to be sustainable — in other words ‘reusable.’ We want tugs that are going back and forth from low Earth orbit to lunar orbit to be reusable. We want the lunar landers to be reusable so that they can go back to the surface of the moon over and over again.

“That entire architecture is going to be built on an American backbone. We will have critical infrastructure developed by NASA, by those in this room and at Johnson Space Center, that will give us a sustainable infrastructure on the moon… When we go to the moon this time, we’re going to stay.”

NASA names six new JSC flight directors

September 1st, 2018

2018 Class of Flight Directors: Allison Bolinger, Pooja Jesrani, Adi Boulos, Paul Konyha, Rebecca Wingfield, Marcos Flores. Photo Date: July 9, 2018. Location: Building 30s, WFCR. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

NASA has selected six women and men to join the elite corps of flight directors who will lead mission control for a variety of new operations at the agency’s Johnson Space Center here.

Already the new flight directors are beginning extensive training on flight control and vehicle systems, as well as operational leadership and risk management, before they will be ready to sit behind the flight director console in mission control supporting NASA’s astronauts. When they do, they will become part of a group that numbers fewer than 100. This class will bring the total number of flight directors the agency has had to 97 since Christopher C. Kraft became the first flight director in 1958.

“This is an outstanding group of future tactical leaders for the Flight Operations Directorate,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at Johnson. “We are excited to have them come on board.”

Joining the 26 active flight directors currently guiding mission control, this group will have the opportunity to oversee a variety of human spaceflight missions involving the International Space Station, including integrating American-made commercial crew spacecraft into the fleet of vehicles servicing the orbiting laboratory, as well as Orion spacecraft missions to the Moon and beyond.

“The job of flight director is not an easy one, and we make these selections very carefully,” said Holly Ridings, acting chief of the Flight Director Office at Johnson. “We had a great group of applicants, so we were able to choose six individuals who have worked in many areas of human spaceflight. They’ll bring a lot of good experience to the role that will serve NASA well as we undertake new and exciting missions.”

As flight directors, they will head teams of flight controllers, research and engineering experts, and support personnel around the world and make the real-time decisions critical to keeping NASA astronauts safe in space. The new flight directors are:

Allison Bolinger
Bolinger, from Lancaster, Ohio, began her career at NASA as an intern in 2001, before earning her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University in 2004. Upon becoming a full-time NASA employee after graduation, she supported spacewalks in a variety of functions, including as a lead spacewalk flight controller for space shuttle Endeavor’s final mission, and several spacewalks since. Most recently, she has served as the deputy chief of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, managing the facility’s daily operations.

Adi Boulos
Boulos grew up in Palos Hills, Ill., and Fair Lawn, N.J., and holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He began his career at NASA in 2008 and was one of the first flight controllers managing the space station’s core system computer networks in a position, known as Communications RF Onboard Networks Utilization Specialist. In addition to serving as a CRONUS specialist flight controller and as a CRONUS instructor, Boulos also worked with the Orion Program on spacecraft system recovery processes after major malfunctions.

Jose Marcos Flores
Flores, who considers Caguas, Puerto Rico, to be his hometown, interned at multiple NASA centers while working on his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez. He came to Johnson Space Center full time in 2010 as a systems engineer, helping to develop a new space station simulator. He went on to become a flight controller managing the station’s power and external thermal control in a position known as Station Power, ARticulation, Thermal, and Analysis (SPARTAN). He also earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University.

Pooja Joshi Jesrani
Jesrani was born in England but immigrated to Houston during childhood. Jesrani began interning with United Space Alliance before graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 2007. In her work with USA and later NASA, she has supported the space station flight control team in many positions, including managing the life support and motion control systems, and then as a capsule communicator (CAPCOM), speaking directly with the astronauts in space. Recently, Jesrani has been working to integrate mission operations for upcoming commercial crew flights.

Paul Konyha III
Konyha, was born in Manhasset, N.Y., and finished high school in Mandeville, La. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1996 until 2016, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel after holding a number of operations, engineering and leadership positions for numerous space systems. Since then, he has led the design, test, operations and disposal of all Department of Defense payloads on crewed spacecraft for the DOD’s Space Test Program office at Johnson Space Center. Konyha holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Louisiana Tech University and master’s degrees in military operational art and science, and science and astronautical engineering from Air University and the University of Southern California, respectively.

Rebecca J. Wingfield
Wingfield, from Princeton, Ky., interned at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky in 2007. She joined the flight control team at Johnson Space Center in 2007 as a contractor with United Space Alliance, overseeing maintenance tasks that the astronauts perform in space. She went on to become a CAPCOM, speaking to the crew on behalf of the control team, and a chief training officer, preparing space station crews for their missions. She also holds a master’s degree in systems engineering from the University of Houston – Clear Lake.

Learn more about careers at NASA at: www.nasa.gov/careers

Pence has high praise for JSC

August 28th, 2018

“The Johnson Space Center is a national treasure, and all the men and women who work here are a national asset,” Vice President Mike Pence said as he addressed the standing room only crowd in JSC’s Teague Auditorium.

By Mary Alys Cherry

“America will lead mankind to the stars once again,” Vice President Mike Pence told a standing room only crowd in Johnson Space Center’s Teague Auditorium, “and,” he continued, “there are plans to send man back to the moon for the first time in nearly 50 years.

“We’re not content with leaving behind footprints or even to leave it all. This time has come, we believe, for the United States of America to take what we’ve learned over so many decades, put your ingenuity and creativity to work and establish a permanent presence around and on the moon.”

Welcome words for a group of hard-working engineers and space scientists, after a decade of nearly being ignored by government officials.

LAST STOP

“The vice president was at JSC after a stop in the hard-hit city of Rockport, where Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 25, 2017 and where he and Gov. Greg Abbott made a helicopter tour to survey the recovery. Then it was on to Houston for several events before ending his Texas journey at the place he said “has been at the forefront of America’s journey to the stars,” bringing smiles to the faces of JSC Director Mark Geyer and Deputy Director Vanessa Wyche and the hundreds of other employees looking on.

It was his second visit to NASA’s lead space center. Earlier, he was here to introduce NASA’s newest astronauts. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who introduced Pence, also was back for his second visit in three weeks, much to the delight of the audience, most of whom couldn’t recall this much attention from Washington in years.

Pence, who serves as chairman of the National Space Council, admitted to being a space geek. In fact, he said he was like a kid in a candy store while touring JSC with Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt, one of the last two men to walk on the moon. Together, they visited NASA’s big swimming pool – also known as the Neutral Buoyancy Lab – and JSC’s eye-popping collection of moon rocks. Schmitt flew on the nation's last mission to the moon 46 years ago in 1972.

MANTLE OF GREATNESS

For more than 50 years, this storied center has been at the forefront of America's journey to the stars,” Pence continued. This is the ‘home of the Astronaut Corps.’ And, here, from the Mission Control Center, you have guided every American-crewed space expedition since 1965. The names and the voyages that you directed from this place adorn the mantle of American greatness. In Project Gemini, you steered some of our earliest astronauts high above what they called the “Blue Marble”, into low Earth orbit.

“In the Apollo Program, you navigated the first members of the human family to the moon and back.

“At this very hour, you walk with our astronauts through their duties as they walk 200 miles above us, orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, on the International Space Station.

NATIONAL TREASURE

“The Johnson Space Center is a national treasure, and all the men and women who work here are a national asset,” he continued to great applause. “I have to tell you, I’m just speaking as a small-town guy from southern Indiana, but I know the American people admire — they admire the work done here — past, present — and they look for even greater things in the future here at Johnson Space Center. And let me to say to all of you, and all of those that might be looking on: The most important work and the best days for the Johnson Space Center are yet to come.  Count on it.”

He went on to talk about the work of the National Space Council and the proposed U.S Space Force and how it may be needed in the future, noting that “the need is real,” as the Pentagon has just released a report that China and Russia are weaponizing, “developing and testing new and dangerous weapons and technologies to counter America space capabilities.”

Then, looking to the future, he added, “Sadly, for more than seven years we’ve been forced to hitch a ride to space. Those days are over. Soon – and very soon – American astronauts will return to space on American rockets launched from American soil.”

NASA Announces new deputy director of Johnson Space Center

August 12th, 2018

Vanessa Wyche has been named deputy director of the Johnson Space Center, becoming the first African American to hold the post.

In her new job, she will assist JSC Director Mark Geyer in leading one of NASA’s largest installations, which has nearly 10,000 civil service and contractor employees – including those at White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico – and a broad range of human spaceflight activities.

“Vanessa has a deep background at JSC with significant program experience in almost all of the human spaceflight programs that have been hosted here,” Geyer said in making the announcement. “She is respected at NASA, has built agency wide relationships, throughout her nearly three-decade career and will serve JSC well as we continue to lead human space exploration in Houston.”

Wyche recently served as director of the Exploration Integration and Science Directorate (EISD) and completed a detail as the JSC deputy director in February 2018.

“I am incredibly humbled to take on this role at JSC, and also excited to assist Mark with leading the home of human spaceflight”; Wyche said. “I look forward to working with the talented employees at JSC as we work toward our mission of taking humans farther into the solar
system.”

The South Carolina native is a graduate of Clemson University, where she earned both her B.S. in Materials Engineering and a Master of Science in Bioengineering. Wyche is the recipient of two NASA Exceptional Achievement Medals and two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals.

Before joining JSC in 1989, Wyche worked for the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C. She began her career with NASA in the Space Life Sciences Directorate as a project engineer. She has held several key center leadership positions including assistant center director, associate director of EISD and acting director of Human Exploration Development Support.

She also served in the Constellation Program as director of operations and test integration and in the Space Shuttle Program as a flight manager for several space shuttle missions. She was manager of the Mission Integration Office, and she completed a detail in the Office of the NASA Administrator.

For more information about Wyche, visit:

 

Senate panel hears BAHEP president on importance of International Space Station funding after 2024

August 1st, 2018

BAHEP President Bob Mitchell

The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership has been an avid supporter of NASA, and specifically of the missions of the NASA’s Johnson Space Center, for decades. Elected officials and the media often consult with BAHEP President Bob Mitchell to share his expertise in regard to the aerospace industry.

In May 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz, chairman of the Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation invited Mitchell to provide testimony before his subcommittee regarding the International Space Station.

Given just five minutes to state his support for federal funding for the ISS beyond 2025, Mitchell testified before the subcommittee on June 6, 2018. Following is his testimony in full.

Chairman Cruz, Ranking Member Nelson, distinguished members of the committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today and to testify on the important topic of the International Space Station.

I serve as the president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, a member-driven, 501(c)( 6) nonprofit economic development organization located just outside the gates of the Johnson Space Center in Bay Area Houston. We have over 268 members, which include a diverse mix of businesses in aerospace, medical, life sciences, petrochemicals, and maritime.

We also are proud to work on initiatives that contribute to the economic growth of the 13 cities and two counties in the area around the Johnson Space Center. Although aerospace companies make up a fraction of our membership, the entire business community understands and values the contributions of NASA and the space community in making all of our lives better.

The ISS is a critical element of the work performed in Houston at the Johnson Space Center and the backbone to maintaining a number of key elements of our success in human spaceflight: the astronaut corps, mission control, countless technical resources, and world-class researchers. The Johnson Space Center offers an unparalleled national capability that has been built over decades of experience. The loss of or weakening of its capabilities would have dramatic implications to our outcomes in deep space exploration.

The Return on Investment (ROI) on the ISS can be calculated in many ways. It is difficult to quantify the exact dollar value of many of these returns, but the overall impact is undeniable. The International Space Station – by its design and enactment – has established the foundation for sustained generation of technology that improves life on earth.

Each year, spinoffs like new drugs, materials, and scientific technology become licensed and begin generating new revenue streams for companies large and small.

Beyond the ability to show an ROI, the International Space Station positions us to tackle the challenge of deep space by buying down cost and risk now to give missions to the Moon and Mars a head start. The station is a critical, inexpensive test bed for exploration hardware that needs to work perfectly on its first live mission. It allows us to test, tweak, and perfect life support systems, radiation abatement methods, and other advanced materials. These breakthroughs will eventually make it from the launch pad into our homes and businesses across America.

Through engagement with the Russian space agency and 13 other ISS partners, the U.S. has led an era of peaceful collaboration and exploration that has provided stability in space leading to the current level of space commercialization.This commitment to the ISS — uninterrupted for the last 25 years — has provided more than just a destination in space. The ISS has cultivated:

  • A cultural learning lab for diplomacy, education, and inspiration
  • A learning lab for technology applications – testing performance machines, materials, and humans in space
  • A science lab for comparing terrestrial knowledge in a new frontier of weightlessness
  • A lab for exploring both our earth and outer space in preparation for the next exploration endeavors

I think it is important to take a detailed look at the overall ISS budget, which is often cited at $3 billion per year. What is misleading about that estimate is that the Commercial Crew and Cargo programs are funded out of those funds, along with overhead costs at the centers housing the programs and other expenses. The real ISS budget is a fraction of that total cost, ranging from $1B – $1.5B/year. Saving this much each year will have a minimal impact on our overall exploration efforts in terms of a funds transfer. Commercial alternatives would likely cost significantly more than sustaining the ISS, essentially creating an entirely new development program, while providing a fraction of the existing capabilities.

If the U.S. government terminates its support of the ISS in 2025, and we step away from ISS before an equivalent long-term engagement is created, there will be a disruption in the space program and the emerging commercial space industry.

Not very long ago, NASA’s Constellation Program was cancelled at the same time as the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program, which had a profoundly negative impact on America’s leadership position in space.

I sincerely hope that we all learned a valuable lesson from this and trust that you will not allow history to repeat itself! My position is that the U.S. government should commit to the ISS for as long as it is safely feasible to do so.

However, as we succeed, others look to follow. As you have probably seen, just last week China invited other nations to partner with them on their space station. They realize, as we do, the power of these partnerships and the leadership and the technology that can be gained from them.

As we question our commitment to the future of ISS, the Chinese space program is actively seeking to leverage this moment in time to provide an alternative path and platform for our traditional international partners in space. This has very serious implications for our national security, trade and technology partnerships and leadership if this is not managed carefully. At the end of the day, the ISS program is the culmination of all of the reasons we are so passionate about the entire space program – it represents America’s future in global leadership, education, innovation, healthcare, and our quality of life.

Thank you for the invitation to speak on this topic, and I look forward to your questions.

Congressman Culberson ready for NASA to go to the moon, Mars

July 1st, 2018

Congressman John Culberson, second from left, stops for a photo with, from left, Jacobs Vice President Lon Miller, Oceaneering Vice President Mike Bloomfield and Orbital ATK Vice President Brian Duffy, as he prepares to return to Washington.

Story and Photos by Mary Alys Cherry

In case you have been wondering when we will ever get to Mars, and even back to the moon again, you are not alone. Congressman John Culberson has been, too.

He came down to Clear Lake for a visit with a group of aerospace executives over at Oceaneering’s headquarters on Space Center Boulevard and was quick to let everyone know that all of Washington had their backs.

Early arrivals for the meeting at Oceaneering Space Systems included, from left, UTC Aerospace Systems Business Development Director William Bastedo, Orbital ATK Vice President Brian Duffy, Oceaneering Business Development Director Dr. Carl Walz and Bastion Technologies Chief Operating Officer Dr. Jayant Ramakrishnan.

“Don’t worry about funding,” Culberson said. “The president, vice president and Congress are all behind you. Forget what you see on TV. We all love the space program,” he told the roomful of representatives from various aerospace firms.

Then he looked around the table at Boeing ISS Program Manager Mark Mulqueen, Lockheed Martin Orion Deputy Program Manager Larry Price, Orbital Vice President Brian Duffy and Oceaneering Space Systems Vice President and General Manager Mike Bloomfield, and after expressing his love for the space program, wanted to know what was the holdup. When are we going to go to the moon and on the Mars?

To which the aerospace executives explained the many problems involved in going into deep space, keeping the astronauts safe, the holdups they had faced and how they have been working things out while both NASA headquarters and the Johnson Space Center were going through a change in management

Afterwards, the popular congressman spoke to the aerospace executives, who were joined by all the Oceaneering employees, giving them an update on the NASA budget.

Boeing’s Above and Beyond exhibit here ‘breath taking’
Boeing also was in the spotlight in recent days, inviting aerospace friends to its new groundbreaking Above and Beyond exhibit at Space Center Houston that explores the wonder of flight and the marvels of aerospace innovation, design and technology.

There is only one word to describe it: breath taking.

Boeing said “Above and Beyond is designed to be the most interactive exhibition on aerospace ever to tour, with approximately 5,000 square feet of exhibition space and offering five themed galleries featuring dozens of interactive experiences.”

One eye catching feature was the Space Elevator simulation, which takes one to the edge of the universe.

One person attending said he had been going to Space Center Houston regularly for almost 15 years. By far, this was the most interesting, best “hands on” interactive experience ever hosted at Space Center Houston!

NASA Associate Administrator Jaiwon Shin said, “The tenacity of the human spirit couldn’t be more evident than in its never-ending quest to understand and explore the world around it. This exhibit is a celebration of the innovation that made flight possible during the last century, and serves as an inspiration for the next generation of aviation and space visionaries.”

Above and Beyond opens as Boeing enters its second century of aerospace achievement and will make its worldwide debut at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum Aug. 1. Afterwards, there are stops in Dubai, St. Louis, Charleston, S.C., Riyadh, Seattle, London, Tokyo and Chicago.

Meanwhile, Boeing was preparing for the first flight later this year of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which it is building to fly astronauts to the International Space Station

JSC, Lockheed test Orion escape feature
As the Space Center Houston exhibit was opening, Lockheed Martin was busy over at the Johnson Space Center planning to test a special model of the Orion that it expects to carry astronauts to Mars.

If all goes as planned during the test at Kennedy Space Center in April 2019, the Orion will separate from a booster rocket at 31,000 feet in half a second. If it’s a success, it will mean the eventual crew of astronauts can escape if the rocket should explode. It also will mean a trip to the moon in 2023 and a journey to Mars in 2030 is likely. An uncrewed flight of the Orion is planned for December 2019.
However, because of construction delays with the Space Launch System rocket, that could change.

NASA introduces new astronaut recruits as Vice President Pence looks on at JSC

June 7th, 2017

2017 NASA Astronaut Candidates. Photo Date: June 6, 2017. Location: Ellington Field – Hangar 276, Tarmac. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

After receiving a record-breaking number of applications to join an exciting future of space exploration, NASA has selected its largest astronaut class since 2000. Rising to the top of more than 18,300 applicants, NASA chose 12 women and men as the agency’s new astronaut candidates.

Vice President Mike Pence joined NASA leaders Wednesday as they introduced the members of the 2017 astronaut class during an event at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. While at Johnson, the vice president toured the International Space Station mission control center, and the historic mission control center, which was used during early NASA spaceflights, including the first moon landing mission, Apollo 11. He also was presented with a model of the International Space Station and a framed U.S. flag that was flown to and from the orbiting laboratory this winter.

“These are 12 men and women whose personal excellence and whose personal courage will carry our nation to even greater heights of discovery and who I know will inspire our children and our grandchildren every bit as much as your forebears have done so in this storied American program,” said Vice President Pence.

“And to this newest class of astronauts, it’s my honor to bring the sincere congratulations of the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. Your President is proud of you, and so am I.”

The astronaut candidates will return to Johnson in August to begin two years of training. Then they could be assigned to any of a variety of missions, including: performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and departing for deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

“We look forward to the energy and talent of these astronauts fueling our exciting future of discovery,” acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said. “Between expanding the crew on board the space station to conduct more research than ever before, and making preparations to send humans farther into space than we’ve ever been, we are going to keep them busy. These candidates are an important addition to the NASA family and the nation’s human spaceflight team.

Applicants included U.S. citizens in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa. The talented women and men selected for the new astronaut class represent the diversity of America and the career paths that can lead to a place in America’s astronaut corps.

The 2017 astronaut candidates are:

Kayla Barron, 29, Lt., U.S. Navy, is originally from Richland, Wash. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering. A Gates Cambridge Scholar, Barron earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge. As a submarine warfare officer, Barron was a member of the first class of women commissioned into the submarine community. She’ll come to NASA from the U.S. Naval Academy, where she has been serving as the flag aide to the superintendent.

Zena Cardman, 29, calls Williamsburg, Va., home. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Master of Science in Marine Sciences at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Cardman is currently a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow working on her doctorate at The Pennsylvania State University. Her research has focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments. Her field experience includes multiple Antarctic expeditions, work aboard research vessels as both scientist and crew, and NASA analog missions in British Columbia, Idaho and Hawaii.

Raja Chari, 39, Lt. Col., U.S. Air Force, hails from Waterloo, Iowa. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He continued on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. Chari has been serving as the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Matthew Dominick, 35, Lt. Cmdr., U.S. Navy, was born and raised in Wheat Ridge, Colo. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of San Diego and a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He also graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. Dominick was at sea on the USS Ronald Reagan, serving as department head for Strike Fighter Squadron 115, when he got the call saying he’d been selected as an astronaut candidate.

Bob Hines, 42, considers Harrisburg, Penn., his hometown. He graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. From there, he went on to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, and then the University of Alabama, where he earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. He has served in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves for 18 years. For the last five years, Hines has served as a NASA research pilot at Johnson.

Warren “Woody” Hoburg, 31, is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT. He continued on to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkley. He is a private pilot and has extensive experience with wilderness search and rescue efforts. Hoburg will come to NASA from MIT, where he currently is leading a research group as an assistant professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Dr. Jonny Kim, 33, Lt., U.S. Navy, was born and raised in Los Angeles. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy, then trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completing more than 100 combat operations and earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat V. Afterward, he went on to complete a degree in mathematics at the University of San Diego and a doctorate of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Kim is a resident physician in emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Robb Kulin, 33, hails from Anchorage, Alaska. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Denver before going on to complete a master’s degree in materials science and a doctorate in engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He has previous experience as an ice driller in Antarctica on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and Taylor Glaciers, and as a commercial fisherman in Chignik, Alaska. Since 2011, Kulin has worked for SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, where he leads the Launch Chief Engineering group.

Jasmin Moghbeli, 33, Maj., U.S. Marine Corps, considers Baldwin, New York, her hometown. She earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering with information technology at MIT, followed by a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. She also is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. Moghbeli currently tests H-1 helicopters and serves as the quality assurance and avionics officer for Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 in Yuma, Arizona.

Loral O’Hara, 34, calls Sugar Land, Texas, home. She earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue University. As a student, she participated in NASA’s KC-135 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, the NASA Academy at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and the internship program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. O’Hara is currently a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Dr. Francisco “Frank” Rubio, 41, Maj., U.S. Army, is originally from Miami. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a doctorate of medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Rubio has accumulated more than 1,100 hours of flight time in helicopters, including 600 hours of combat and imminent danger time. He’s currently serving as a surgeon for the 3rd Battalion of the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Jessica Watkins, 29, hails from Lafayette, Colorado. She graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences, then went on to earn a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Watkins has worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory and currently is a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, where she collaborates on the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

With the addition of these 12 members of the 2017 astronaut candidate class, NASA now has selected 350 astronauts since the original Mercury 7 in 1959.

“These women and men deserve our enthusiastic congratulations,” said astronaut and Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa. “Children all across the United States right now dream of being in their shoes someday. We here at NASA are excited to welcome them to the team and look forward to working with them to inspire the next generation of explorers.”

The astronaut candidates will be available to talk to media in person at Johnson and by remote satellite link on June 8. Media interested in this limited opportunity should contact the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111.

Find photos and additional information about the new astronaut candidates at: https://www.nasa.gov/2017Astronauts

Follow NASA astronauts on Twitter at: https://www.twitter.com/NASA_Astronauts