Bolden: State of NASA is Strong
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden delivered his annual State of NASA speech in the High Bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building on Feb. 2, 2015. With a backdrop of three spacecraft, a pressure test vessel of Boeing’s CST-100, Orion, Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX ) Dragon as well as the Orion spacecraft that carried out the Dec. 5 2014 Exploration Flight Test 1 mission, Bolden addressed a live audience of about 250 NASA employees and contractors as his comments were also broadcast across the country via NASA TV.
The core message Bolden delivered was that President Obama has proposed a NASA budget for Fiscal Year 2016 of $18.5 billion, an increase of $500 million over last year’s budget. Bolden said this increase validates the faith that the country has in the Space Agency.
Bolden told those in attendance, “I want every single American to feel the pride we feel when we talk about what we do at NASA. When you fly on any commercial aircraft, NASA is there with you. NASA developed the lighter composite materials and oxygen sensors that are used in every airplane today. The shock absorbers developed for the Space Shuttle are used today to protect buildings during earthquakes.”
Bolden continued, “As we all know, the most important planet we study is the one on which we live – Earth. The reality is our planet is changing – and the data continues to prove this, but we’re on it. NASA is a leader in Earth and climate science and our constantly expanding view of our planet from space is helping us understand Earth and its changes. In the last twelve months, we’ve launched five Earth science missions – five! The last in these “Year of Earth” missions, Soil Moisture Active Passive, or SMAP, was launched just this past Saturday. These missions are studying such diverse things as ocean winds, components of our atmosphere such as clouds and aerosols and precipitation on a global level.”
Bolden joked that he originally wanted to hold the speech in Glendale, Arizona but the stadium there was previously booked. He chose to deliver the speech from Kennedy Space Center (KSC ) because they are redefining the center’s place for the future. He noted that the future crew systems will be processed and launched from KSC, solidifying its position as the pre-eminent space port for the 21st Century. KSC will be able to support both commercial and NASA missions. The budget for Kennedy Space Center is proposed at $2.5 billion for next year.
However, Bolden pointed out that the NASA budget is spread out amongst 37 states, far beyond the core NASA centers. He told of visiting tiny Bally Ribbon Mills in Pennsylvania where a team of 300 employees who manufacture advanced woven composite materials that will be key to future exploration missions.
It was 2010 in the same building where President Obama tasked NASA to land on an asteroid. Capturing an asteroid has been described as being an important step in the journey to Mars.
Bolden explained, “Now U.S. companies, large and small, are developing the new systems in which our astronauts soon will travel from right here on the Space Coast in Florida to low-Earth orbit (LEO). This initiative, where we hand off low Earth orbit transportation to the private sector, is critical to our journey to Mars. The Boeing CST-100 mockup behind me that features the company’s first-generation weld structure is a prime example of how the American aerospace industry is rising to the challenge of increasing crew safety while bringing down the cost of space travel. This CST-100 weldless structure is an example of the innovative engineering that makes the spacecraft reusable up to ten times. This pressure dome has no welds, which allows for a short turnaround time between flights, increases simplicity of production and drives down costs.”
Bolden went on to say, “NASA is an incredible investment for our nation because what we do not only uncovers new knowledge; it helps raise the bar of human achievement. I couldn’t be more excited about our future! We’re making steady progress and continuing to reach for new heights. People everywhere are attracted to what we do, because exploration embodies our values as a nation – resilience, hope, overcoming the challenges faced. As the Best Place to Work in Government, we share a willingness to learn from our mistakes so that we can transform the impossible into the possible.”
Following Bolden’s address during a separate event, NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski went through 27 pages of highlights of the proposed budget. Among the highlights are fourteen launches planned for Fiscal Year 2016. NASA hopes that the budget will advance the Nation’s two-pronged approach to space exploration plan and that it will ensure the U.S. regains the position as leader in terms of space exploration and technology, aeronautics research and discovery in space and Earth science.
NASA will continue to develop the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems that might one day send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. NASA also continues to work toward a 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope as well as an array of other missions and scientific efforts.
The agency has been tasked with not only returning to the business of sending crews beyond the orbit of Earth, but with also enabling commercial firms such as Boeing, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation to handle operations that have been the agency’s purview since the very beginning of the Space Age. Predominantly these involve ferrying cargo and crew to the current sole destination in LEO – the International Space Station.
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