Bay Area Houston
BAHEP Roundtable on Human Space Exploration
by Jim Guidry
Monday, May 11, 2009
The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership hosted United States Senator John Cornyn’s Roundtable Discussion on the Status of Human Space Exploration on Saturday at the Silver Moon Café at Space Center Houston. Listen: RealPlayer MP3
BAHEP President Bob Mitchell moderated the panel, which included Cornyn, Congressman Pete Olson, Ranking Republican Member of the House Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics, and former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.
"You know, I don't think the timing could be any better, considering what went on toward the end of the week last week with the detailed rollout of the budget," Mitchell said. "And then the announcement of this top to bottom review of the human spaceflight program."
"We all agree that human spaceflight is the pride of our nation and vital to our security on so many levels," Cornyn said. "It causes me a little bit of concern that we are going to be depending on the Russians to shuttle us for the next five years, after the end of the Shuttle flight, back and forth to the International Space Station."
Cornyn said he is concerned that President Barack Obama has not yet named a successor to Griffin.
"You would think that if you are talking about long-term plans for NASA and human spaceflight that you would want to have an administrator in place to participate in that," he said.
"We are going through a critical phase right now in our human spaceflight program," Olson said, citing the goal of return to the Moon by 2020. "It's critically important that America maintains its leadership, in man's spaceflight, in the world. If we do slack off, if we don't provide the resources, there are countries out there who are going to pass us."
Griffin said that NASA does not need the type of review that the Obama administration is proposing, but if it is to occur, he hopes that it convinces the administration to support the manned space program.
"A review that once again asks the question, 'Are the goal posts in the right place? Should we go to the Moon? Should we go to Mars? Should we visit the near-Earth asteroids?' - scrambling that mix again, I think, will not be productive," Griffin said. "The goals have to remain in place for longer than a presidential administration or a session of Congress if you are to get anything out of the space program."
Mark Gittleman, vice president and general manager of Oceaneering Space Systems said that his company has been contracted to build a new space suit for NASA, which he said is generating a great deal of excitement.
"We have people who want to come out of retirement to work on that, we have kids in high school asking what they have to do in college so that they can come work on that," he said. "They don't want just a job, they want to work on the space suit. And they don't want to work on it just because it is a space suit. They want to work on it because it is a space suit that is going to go to the Moon."
Gittleman said he is very concerned about the President's budget.
Griffin said Gittleman's concerns are well placed in light of the proposed $3 billion-plus cut in the budget for the manned space program.
"If it remains there, there is not going to be a space suit contract," Griffin said. "Or there may be a contract, but there isn't going to be any money on it."
Mitchell said that next week's trip to Washington, D.C. by Citizens for Space Exploration from Texas and other states, will be very important in the quest to convince Congress to continue funding for manned spaceflight.
Editor's note: Lynda Guidry is a member of Citizens for Space Exploration and will file regular reports from Washington, D.C. next week for GuidryNews.com