Saturday, February 06, 2010
New NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden addressed the media here at the Kennedy Space Center this morning, answering questions about the space agency's future following President Obama's cancellation of the Constellation program.
Wearing a sports jacket and black turtleneck, a relaxed and upbeat Mr. Bolden answered our questions on the shutdown of the Constellation program and exactly what is America's future for placing humans in space -- both low earth orbit and beyond.
"We don't have a replacement for shuttle", Bolden exclaimed. "I'm uncomfortable having Soyuz as our (craft) starting at the end of this year."
The Constellation program was planned as NASA's attempt to carry humans back to the International Space Station beginning in 2015, and five years later to a landing on the Moon.
The Obama Administration cancelled the program a week ago.
Bolden did outline what he calls a Flexible Path which would see America journey to the Moon, then Mars, and decades later an Asteroid.
Plans now have NASA contracting out to several private companies to create several new launch vehicles which will return Americans to station in a few years, and to the Moon by 2025.
Bolden discussed that the current contract with the Russian Space Agency to fly one American to the station on each Soyuz craft begins later this year and runs through 2013.
Bolden touched on the urgency on the race back to the Moon: "I'm not concerned (if China or Brazil lands) because they'll be joining six American flags". He addressed the media with thoughts directed at what America has done with the Apollo program, and at the same time he seemed lost with exactly how America was going back and when.
The administrator also touched on future astronauts and their dirction through the 2010's and beyond as the space shuttle program ends.
"Some (astronauts) will stay around because they want to be a part of the development of the next generation spacecraft and the next generation capability," he stated. "We need to have the discussion of what the future... the next generation of astronauts will be like, and our international partners have a lot to say about that, because they happen to like the elite astronaut corps. So, we need to have the discussion of how important it is to have a career astronaut contingent as opposed to none."
Bolden's news conference comes some 18 hours prior to the scheduled launch of the first of five final space shuttle flights.
Bolden was asked and spoke of the concerns of the loss of jobs both here on the Space Coast and in other aerospace divisions which were supporting the upstart of Constellation.
His comments addressed the need to retire shuttle and have the private sector create a new stle of spacecraft and launcher, which will likly borrow on the knoweledge of the Ares 1 rocket.
Bolden started his first day on the job as the head of the space agency on July 17.