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Experts cite the benefits and challenges of further exploration of space

SAN FRANCISCO – The United States has the latest technology and the skilled workforce it needs to continue space exploration. However, on July 9, Gene Kranz, director of Apollo flights, told the Senators that he was missing the attention and priorities that made the Apollo program a success.

"We have an administration that strongly supports the space and is willing to provide the resources," Kranz said on July 9 at a hearing of the Senate's Transportation and Transportation Science Subcommittee. "We have a designated agency to carry out the mission, a high level of leadership in place and a very capable workforce. But each segment is philosophically divided on purpose. "Without a bigger unit, the US space exploration program will be anchored," he added.

Mr. Kranz was one of NASA's veterans and industry leaders who discussed the Apollo program and the pros and cons of future missions at the hearing: "NASA's Exploration Plans where we went and where we go.

NASA plans to send astronauts back to the lunar surface by 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 thanks to the Artemis program. To achieve these goals, NASA will need additional funding of $ 1.6 billion in 2020 and an additional $ 4 to $ 6 billion a year from current funding levels, said Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of Coalition for Space Exploration (Deep Space Exploration).

"The increase in funding is still a political challenge, but it should be noted that the benefits of ten times that amount in adjusted dollars invested in the Apollo program are obvious to all and form the foundation of the national effort. and the growing entrepreneurial sector. "Said Dittmar.

One of the major benefits of Apollo is its impact on the US workforce, said Christine Darden, former director of strategic communications and education at NASA Langley Research Center, at the panel. Similarly, Artemis could entice students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, said Darden, a retired NASA mathematician, data analyst and aeronautical engineer.

"Unfortunately, after the end of Apollo, the number of graduate students in the STEM fields has decreased," said Darden. "A visible and flourishing Artemis program will do a lot to inspire the next generation to pursue a career in STEM."

Dittmar said that future space exploration missions will also have important geopolitical ramifications.

"United States space leadership no longer relies on a race on the moon with the Soviets It is essential to create a base that offers to other nations and to a nascent economy based on space security and assurance about our national intentions and our long-term commitment to aspire, inspire and achieve – in short, lead the exploration of the human space and the development of space " Dittmar said, "If we do not, rest assured that someone else will do it, space remains a strategic and competitive area among nations."

The space launch system, the Orion crew vehicle and the ground exploration systems constitute 'the basis on which the national objectives of deep space exploration will be founded in the near future, "said Dittmar. "Similar to the development of military capabilities, it is long-time national assets, guaranteed against economic downturn, policy changes and messages to the global community."

Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, suggested that future US space activities may differ from those of the Apollo era by relying more on business enterprise innovation.

Low Earth orbit infrastructure, operational elements of future lunar missions and most elements of the architecture needed for Mars missions should be purchased commercially or developed with industry through programs such as Commercial Orbital Transportation Program, a public-private partnership for the International Space Station, said Stallmer.

"NASA should specify clear, high-level, outcome-based requirements and enable entrepreneurs to innovate and create affordable core capabilities to meet virtually any business need," he said. he told the committee. "And NASA has to pay for results, not for all development programs, but for the most esoteric technical challenges. To the extent possible, NASA should award several competitively selected Space Act agreements to commercial partners willing to raise private capital at their own risk. "

If NASA adopts this model of partnership and competition, the space agency will no longer pay for the "expensive micro-management and bureaucracy" of standard contracts under federal procurement regulations, Stallmer said.

Homer Hickam, a former NASA engineer and author of "Rocket Boys," suggested the United States to take another approach to reducing the cost of space exploration. The United States should return to the moon and "settle down to use their mineral wealth and discover everything there," including possible evidence of life. "We will find a lot of water ice on the moon and there may be traces of life," said Hickam.

While applauding the essential elements of the Artemis program, Hickam said NASA's lunar program "must make sense for the American people, both economically and philosophically." If US taxpayers agree to pay the initial cost of future lunar missions, they should know that lunar exploration will eventually be more than profitable, he said. "The riches on the moon should be brought together to boost our economy and so put money in the pockets of all Americans," Hickam said.

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