NASA chief unveils plans for Moon2Mars

April 1st, 2019

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks to employees about the agency’s progress toward sending astronauts to the Moon and on to Mars during a televised event, Monday, March 11, 2019, at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo: NASA

By Mary Alys Cherry

“As we approach the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 this July, we are moving forward to the Moon and on to Mars, and we want the world to come with us.”

That was NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine addressing NASA employees and the media on the space agency’s plans to send astronauts to the moon and eventually to Mars in the next few years.

And, Bridenstine said, astronauts will be on the moon within the next 10 years, and “when they visit, they will stay.”

NASA invited media and social media to agency centers across the country Monday, March 11, following the delivery of President Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal to the U.S. Congress.

Speaking at Kennedy Space Center with his speech video taped to Johnson Space Center and other NASA centers for the public unveiling of America’s work on the Moon2Mars project, Bridenstine discussed President Trump’s $21 billion NASA budget, which he said was not only a six percent increase, but “one of the strongest on record for our storied agency” and a “huge vote of confidence for all of the agency’s hard work and dedication.”

SERIES OF MISSIONS
“Beginning with a series of small commercial delivery missions to the moon as early as this year, we will use new landers, robots and eventually humans by 2028 to conduct science across the entire lunar surface,” Bridenstine said as he discussed the Gateway project, following a welcome by JSC Director Mark Geyer.

“We will go to the Moon in the next decade with innovative, new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the lunar surface than ever before. This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. We will use what we learn as we move forward to the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.

The NASA administrator added that “this budget will build on our successes in low-Earth orbit to create a sustainable exploration campaign that combines NASA’s expertise with that of our commercial and international partners.’ We will continue ushering in a new era of human spaceflight as we launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil for the first time since 2011.”

OUR BACKBONE
The Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft, and Gateway will continue to be our backbone for deep space exploration, he said.

“With this budget, NASA’s critical work studying our home planet and the Sun will benefit humankind for generations. We will reveal the unknown with missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa and the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. We will continue planning and developing the first round-trip mission to the Red Planet with Mars Sample Return.

“NASA is everywhere, and we are impacting people’s lives across the globe. As we celebrate the past, let’s inspire our friends and family for the future that we are building.”

Afterwards, JSC employees showed reporters all the hard work they have been putting in to accomplish the Moon2Mars goal.

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.”

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.

New Space Policy Directive calls for return to the moon

December 12th, 2017

President Donald Trump signs the Presidential Space Directive – 1, directing NASA to return to the moon, alongside members of the Senate, Congress, NASA, and commercial space companies in the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

President Donald Trump is sending astronauts back to the Moon.

The president Monday signed at the White House Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

The policy 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.” The effort will more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” said President Trump. “It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”

The policy grew from a unanimous recommendation by the new National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, after its first meeting Oct. 5. In addition to the direction to plan for human return to the Moon, the policy also ends NASA’s existing effort to send humans to an asteroid. The president revived the National Space Council in July to advise and help implement his space policy with exploration as a national priority.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, America will lead in space once again on all fronts,” said Vice President Pence. “As the President has said, space is the ‘next great American frontier’ – and it is our duty – and our destiny – to settle that frontier with American leadership, courage, and values. The signing of this new directive is yet another promise kept by President Trump.”

Lunar Sample 70215 was retrieved from the Moon’s surface and returned by NASA’s Apollo 17 crew. The sample is a basaltic lava rock similar to lava found in Hawaii. It crystallized 3.84 billion years ago when lava flowed from the Camelot Crater. Sliced off a parent rock that originally weighed 8,110 grams, the sample weighs 14 grams, and is very fine grained, dense and tough. Credits: NASA

Among other dignitaries on hand for the signing, were NASA astronauts Sen. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Buzz Aldrin, Peggy Whitson and Christina Koch. Schmitt landed on the moon 45 years to the minute that the policy directive was signed as part of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission, and is the most recent living person to have set foot on our lunar neighbor.

Aldrin was the second person to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Whitson spoke to the president from space in April aboard the International Space Station and while flying back home after breaking the record for most time in space by a U.S. astronaut in September. Koch is a member of NASA’s astronaut class of 2013.

Work toward the new directive will be reflected in NASA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request next year.

“NASA looks forward to supporting the president’s directive strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “This work represents a national effort on many fronts, with America leading the way. We will engage the best and brightest across government and private industry and our partners across the world to reach new milestones in human achievement.

“Our workforce is committed to this effort, and even now we are developing a flexible deep space infrastructure to support a steady cadence of increasingly complex missions that strengthens American leadership in the boundless frontier of space. The next generation will dream even bigger and reach higher as we launch challenging new missions, and make new discoveries and technological breakthroughs on this dynamic path.”

A piece of Moon rock was brought to the White House as a reminder of the exploration history and American successes at the Moon on which the new policy will build. Lunar Sample 70215 was retrieved from the Moon’s surface and returned by Schmitt’s Apollo 17 crew. Apollo 17 was the last Apollo mission to land astronauts on the Moon and returned with the greatest amount of rock and soil samples for investigation.

The sample is a basaltic lava rock similar to lava found in Hawaii. It crystallized 3.84 billion years ago when lava flowed from the Camelot Crater. Sliced off a parent rock that originally weighed 8,110 grams, the sample weighs 14 grams, and is very fine grained, dense and tough.

During the six Apollo surface excursions from 1969 to 1972, astronauts collected 2,196 rock and soil samples weighting 842 pounds. Scientific studies help us learn about the geologic history of the Moon, as well as Earth. They help us understand the mineral and chemical resources available to support future lunar exploration.

For information about NASA’s missions, programs and activities, visit: https://www.nasa.gov