…The last installment of my thoughts on how an interview with the new NASA administrator might go:
What role will new commercial firms have in exploring Earth-Moon space?
I will take advantage of the growing partnership between NASA and innovative commercial space firms. We will follow through on plans to contract for cargo delivery to the International Space Station, using innovative, low-cost launch systems from SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, and others to address the ISS logistics deficit looming after 2010. If commercial resupply proves reliable, we may explore commercial crew transport to ISS, easing reliance on the Russian Soyuz for transport and lifeboat functions. If we can move routine LEO transport to the commercial sector, NASA’s savings can be focused on cutting-edge technologies for the exploration frontier.
As we explore the Moon and near-Earth asteroids, commercial spacecraft may help us map terrain, and deliver supplies, small rovers and excavators. These robot prospectors, commercially operated, will help establish a long-term human presence in deep space. Success in LEO and on the Moon will lead to commercial operations to recover water, oxygen, and even metals—the first industrial operations in space.
Is NASA’s aeronautics program supporting the nation’s future needs?
At just over half a billion dollars, aeronautics comprised just 3% of NASA’s 2008 budget. Global competition for the next-generation of aircraft sales means we can’t afford to neglect the fundamental research in support of the U.S. aviation industry. We must also forge ahead on new infrastructure to expand America’s air commerce. We need greater investment in advanced aircraft control and flight deck technologies, design of a modern airspace system, and fundamental research into the materials and propulsion enabling hypersonic flight. I will have to convince the administration and Congress of the value of research in maintaining our economic strength, and in producing breakthrough technologies for industry and the military.
Commissioned by the Life Sciences Division of NASA in 1986 to illustrate a publication about their work. The artist imagines the lift-off of a Space Shuttle as symbolically and literally carrying Earth’s DNA into space. To see Jon Lomberg’s work, go here.
What does NASA contribute to our nation’s future?
The key to a brighter future for America is a new generation of bright, educated, highly talented Americans, well-trained to tackle the problems we will always face. No enterprise would better demonstrate our nation’s commitment to our young people than a vigorous, sustained program to establish ourselves on and develop the space frontier. If we want a world-beating corps of talented scientists and engineers, seasoned by taking on the toughest exploration voyages in history, there is no better way to create them than turning our young people loose to conquer Earth-Moon space and explore the solar system. Their talents, honed as they reach for distant worlds, will be invaluable as we face continued terrestrial challenges in defense, energy, environmental protection, and global economic competition. President Obama and NASA should work together to expand our investment in our surest guarantee of future prosperity—the talents, skills and imaginations of our children.
The fictional “interview” above does not represent the views of any past or present NASA administrator.
Comment at www.AstronautTomJones.com