Monday, June 20, 2011

America's Space Future is "Clear"

Panelists speak at a June 17 "Florida Forward" space forum in Orlando. Photo source: Orlando Sentinel.

The Orlando Sentinel reported June 17 on a "Florida Forward" space forum held in Orlando.

Its main purpose seems to have been to rebut claims by some that U.S. space policy lacks direction.

NASA has a "clear path" to the future and times will be good again one day at Kennedy Space Center — even though the 30-year space-shuttle program ends in July and the agency has not yet revealed the next goal for its manned spaceflight program.

That was the unanimous opinion of a panel that included U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida and KSC Director Robert Cabana discussing what lies "beyond the shuttle" on Friday. They spoke in the first of a series of forums on Florida's future sponsored by the Orlando Sentinel and the University of Central Florida.

"There is a perception that we do not have a clear path," Nelson said. "The fact is … there is a clear path forward."

The panel cited these developments:

* Commercial cargo and crew that will fly from Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as soon as 2012 for cargo.

* Evolution of KSC into a "multiuse spaceport" that will support both government and commercial launches.

* Development of the Congressionally designed Space Launch System that would launch from Launch Complex 39 at KSC.

* An increase in space research and development on the Space Coast.

As for jobs:

Cabana said direct employment at Kennedy will slip from about 15,000 to about 8,200 by the end of this year — not including thousands more jobs disappearing from contractors' centers outside the space center's gates. But he said it should climb back to about 10,000 by 2016 or 2017, and then stabilize.

Space Florida president Frank DiBello published a guest editorial in the June 16 Florida Today which commented on the forum's topic.

Today, on the issue of the country’s next-generation space program, Washington is adrift. Congress, the Obama administration and NASA each have articulated a different approach to the nation’s future in space.

Regardless of any final agreement the White House and our nation’s political leadership may make, it is imperative that commercial space remains a key priority for this region’s economic vitality ...

It is incumbent upon our elected representatives to ensure Florida remains at the forefront of national debate when it comes to commercial space, and our state’s political leadership must lead with commitment and one voice.

Regarding the last paragraph, it's my personal impression that "our elected representatives," Sandy Adams and Bill Posey, have shown little enthusiasm publicly for supporting commercial space. Hopefully they'll take action soon that proves me wrong.

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