I was in High School when I heard then President Kennedy’s famous speech at Rice University, committing the United States to putting a man on the Moon and returning him safely home by the end of the decade. I still get chills every time I hear or read any part of that speech. It so greatly influenced me at the time, I decided that whatever it took, I was going to have my finger prints on that rocket! Four years later I had the opportunity of working on the Apollo program as an inspector with McDonnell Douglas. It was an exciting experience and I am both grateful and humbled to have been a part of it. The United States remains the only nation to have landed humans on the Moon and returned them safely to Earth. It was among the greatest achievements in the history of the human race and it has significantly contributed to America’s leadership on the world stage.
Since the Apollo Moon landing, our space program has accomplished many other challenging feats: building Space Shuttles to test the limits of human space flight, prolonged robotic exploration of Mars, launching a space-based telescope that can see far beyond our galaxy, and conducting scientific research on the International Space Station. America has now entered a new age of space exploration that will open up our commercial sector, develop new technologies, and push human exploration further into our solar system.
When the Space Shuttles were retired in July 2011, the United States became reliant on the Russians to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station. Our cost to access space has now exceeded $70 million per astronaut. To break this cycle of dependence, last year Congress approved record funding levels for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which is managed at the Kennedy Space Center. This initiative brings together American aerospace companies with the goal of launching U.S. astronauts on an American vehicle from American soil. American ingenuity was on display as SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape and successfully landed it in an upright position on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean.
While the Commercial Crew Program is an important step in securing America’s access to the International Space Station, America has not lost sight of the need for humans to explore beyond low Earth orbit. In 2010 Congress authorized construction of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) as a successor to the Space Shuttle that will be capable of launching both cargo and human crews into space. The idea is to build a powerful rocket that will enable humans to return to the Moon and eventually travel to Mars and other deep space destinations. The SLS and its Orion crew capsule have received strong funding support by Congress and is set for its first unmanned mission in late 2018 followed by a human mission to orbit the Moon as early as 2021.
Despite NASA’s historic role in leading the way forward, we are now witnessing a new era in the space industry where more companies are competing to provide launch services to NASA or plan their own space missions. Competition for space business is fierce and our laws and regulations need to catch up with these entrepreneurs and their innovative ideas. Congress recently passed and the President signed into law landmark commercial space legislation which included several of my provisions to help promote future commercial space ventures and streamline the regulatory process to make the U.S., and Florida, more competitive for commercial launches.
According to Space Florida, our state is home to 11,600 aerospace companies that generate over $17.7 billion in sales and support over 132,000 employees. We have more interest in space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Moon Express moving to the Cape. OneWeb will be building hundreds of small satellites launching into space to increase global Internet access. These are highly technical, good paying jobs that keep Florida, and America, at the forefront of innovation.
I was fifteen when President Kennedy delivered his famous address declaring America’s mission to the Moon. Like so many Americans, I was inspired by the President’s call and personally wanted very much to be a part it. This too is an exciting time for our space industry and I encourage young people looking to be a part of something special to consider a career in the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). Preparing to meet the challenges of the future is an important key to maintaining America’s competitive edge and our leadership in space.
George M. Cecala
& Deputy Chief of Staff
Congressman Bill Posey (FL-08)
120 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515