Kennedy Space Center . . . What Next?

Recently we viewed the launch (and return – landing) of the final space shuttle mission. That was a scheduled event – on the plan since the beginning, way back on April 12, 1981 when John Young and Bob Crippen first took Columbia into low-earth orbit space.

The space shuttle was designed and build primarily to transport parts for the assembly of the International Space Station. Over the years, in addition to support for the  Space Station, the shuttle was used for other purposes. For instance, it deployed the Hubble electron telescope and, later, repaired the same to correct malfunctions and replace aging parts.  Devices such as Hubble are just too large to launch on an unmanned rocket; the shuttle could take payloads the size of a bus!

Secret Defense Department missions and other satellites were also supported.

 

 

In the original plan, following the basic construction of the Space Station, the shuttle program was to be discontinued in favor of a more advanced vehicle (Orion) that could not only help supply the Space Station with material and astronauts but would also be utilized in deep space exploration and for eventual Mars landing.

However, as most interested people know, the manned (astronaut) programs on the NASA schedule have been (halted) by the Obama administration. There is NO USA support for the Space Station; we must now depend on the Russians to transport “replacement” astronauts as well as food and other supplies – at tremendous costs. There is no space shuttle for emergency response, repairs and general maintenance; the crews aboard the Space Station have to support themselves for repairs, even to problems on the outside of the station!

Probably (hopefully) after the next presidential election, a person of responsibility to the safety, security and advancement of America will be elected to the helm (and the obligation) to re-fund the NASA manned program, that it may continue in the original mission.

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Most people do not understand just how economically BAD the cessation of the manned space program is. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of jobs have been affected – not only in Florida but Houston and other sites around the world. Plus, all the 3rd party (contractors) who supply parts for the program have been forced to either cease their operation or were forced to institute severe layoffs.

In September, 1989, after a long delay (975 days) following the Challenger disaster, the space shuttle program was resumed with the launch and landing of STS-26. In preparation for that historic launch, Kennedy Space (launch) Center in Florida had all the employees sign their names that formed a booklet that was flown aboard the shuttle. Here you see a photo of the front cover and one of the pages of names. My signature is on page 72.

The original book is on file (somewhere – probably the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum). There are 107 pages; each page has 150 signatures. The total employees who signed the book comes to 16,050, and that’s just at the Kennedy Space Center. Thousands more at Houston Flight Control Center, Vandenburg  Air Force Base in California and other Americans stationed around the world in shuttle support have lost their jobs as well!

Having been a part of the “program” for nearly 20 years, certainly I am partial, but if one looks at the tremendous “spin-offs'” that we have benefited from we really can’t afford to suffer the future technological losses we could expect (see my previous posting on those benefits). The Far East  (China, Japan, India) obviously will succeed us.

My question is: what are all those thousands of people that were our aerospace engineers and specialists going to do now? There are jobs available for them in Russia and China – do we export yet another hard-earned segment of our society?

 

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 is determination day.

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