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America’s Future in Space: An Interview with the New NASA Administrator (Part I) February 22, 2009

Posted by skywalking1 in Space.

Disclaimer — This interview is fiction. It represents only the views of the author. — Disclaimer

The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.

— John F. Kennedy — Rice University, September 12, 1962

Disclaimer — This interview is fiction. It represents only the views of the author. — Disclaimer

Bringing up the rear of the President Obama’s inaugural parade (video), NASA’s Small Pressurized Rover prototype, carrying NASA engineers and veteran astronauts Mike Gernhardt and Rex Walheim, strutted its stuff before the largest crowd in Washington history. But it’s a long way from Pennsylvania Avenue to the Moon. Whatever momentum the Rover generated on January 20 will be difficult to sustain in light of the nation’s fiscal crisis and mixed signals from the new administration.

The week of the inauguration, I joined NASA’s next administrator in the Apollo-era blast bunker under Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center for a conversation about America’s future in space.

Ares I -- space shuttle successor -- (NASA)

Ares I -- space shuttle successor -- (NASA)

What is your first priority as you take the reins at NASA?

Your shuttle crews returned safely. Two others did not. Those accidents were both tragic and entirely preventable. Because of the recovery and redesign efforts following both Challenger and Columbia, the shuttle today is safer than it has ever been. Yet the space shuttle is a system conceived nearly forty years ago; the orbiter fleet’s structural elements and major subsystems are now twenty-five years old or more. Flying the shuttles safely for the remaining nine missions (or more, depending on administration choices) will require extraordinary attention by the shuttle team. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board doubted NASA could sustain such focus for more than a few years. Because another shuttle accident would halt U.S. human spaceflight in its tracks, and cast enormous doubt on whether NASA should be entrusted with even more ambitious (and hazardous) ventures, I will keep flight safety my first priority.

I will also push hard to make the Orion crew exploration vehicle (and its launch systems) far more robust and survivable than the shuttle. With Constellation managers and the contractor team, I will pay special attention to Orion’s launch abort system, system redundancy criteria, and Ares I reliability.

I also believe that Ares I, with a shuttle-derived solid rocket booster and an Apollo-Saturn J-2X upper stage engine, is the safest vehicle for delivering our astronauts to low Earth orbit (LEO). New systems may eventually succeed Ares I, but it’s the fastest and safest route to LEO on the horizon.

(to be continued)

Disclaimer — This interview is fiction. It represents only the views of the author. — Disclaimer




1. John Dedman - March 31, 2009

Hi y’all. Great story. Away to the outer planets.

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