APS News

Human Spaceflight Provides Needed Inspiration

Retired director of Lockheed Martin Norman Augustine, who chaired NASA’s Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, spoke candidly at the April Meeting about the future prospects of human spaceflight.

“The NASA administration needs the authority to manage NASA,” Augustine said, adding he felt that increasing bureaucracy at NASA meant they’re told by Congress to, “Manage NASA, but don’t lay anybody off or close any facilities.”

In September of 2009 the Augustine commission delivered its report to the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy about the future of manned space flight. At his talk, Augustine stopped short of criticizing the administration’s plan to cancel NASA’s Constellation Program, the planned spacecraft that would replace the aging shuttle fleet. It was his first public appearance since the official announcement to cancel the program.

“It goes somewhat beyond any of our options,” he said, “I would hope the nation could afford additional funds. I do realize we are in a tough financial period and [research] is one of the few places in the budget that got additional money.”

According to the president’s proposed budget, NASA received a $276 million budget increase, while funds from the Constellation program would be spread around to other research within the agency. About $1.2 billion would be added to research programs devoted to developing new technologies for human spaceflight.

He said that one of the major roles of human spaceflight is to inspire people and to get them excited about science: “There’s nothing that inspires quite like space and dinosaurs, and we don’t have any more dinosaurs.”


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Editor: Alan Chodos