Exploration Systems

A-3 Test Stand

On Thursday, August 23, I will be at Stennis Space Center for a groundbreaking ceremony for the A-3 test stand. The A-3 test stand is being built to test the J-2X, an Apollo-era liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen engine, which will power the upper stages of Ares I and Ares V rockets. I look forward to attending this event which marks an important milestone for our exploration program.

To think where we were just a few short years ago with the Exploration program, where we are today and where we are going in the near future is remarkable to say the least. For 2007 alone, a great deal will have been accomplished. For example, Ares I first stage and the J-2X contracts have already been awarded and by the end of the year we expect to have awarded contracts for the upper stage and upper stage instrument unit. Work is beginning to propel us to the next great era of exploration.

Lunar Architecture

In parallel with the design, development and execution of space transportation hardware, we continue our lunar architecture planning effort. The lunar architecture is intended to enable achievement of our lunar exploration and science objectives and will facilitate commercial and international cooperation. We have an ongoing dialogue with 13 international space and science organizations to coordinate our efforts and identify areas of potential cooperation.

Partnering with Industry

We also continue to partner with U.S. industry and entrepreneurs to build new capabilities that will also benefit NASA. NASA is pursuing new ways of encouraging industry and entrepreneurs through programs such as the Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) and Centennial Challenges. Centennial Challenges include the astronaut glove challenge held in May that was won by Peter Homer of Maine. The story of how Mr. Homer was out of work at the time and stitched the winning glove at his dining room table shows the spirit and passion so many of us have for space. I am sure there are many others who have the energy and creativity shown by Mr. Homer, and we at NASA want to provide opportunities for such creative souls to show it.

Additionally, we are working with other federal agencies. For example, NASA has partnered with the National Science Foundation to develop an inflatable shelter which they will test in Antarctica. This shelter will incorporate an airlock, connector tunnel, aerojel thermal insulation in the walls, and pockets on the exterior to hold snow in place. The testing will investigate the durability of the habitat in an extreme environment. The extreme environment of Antarctica mimics that of space (but with gravity).

Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD)

Advances in exploration cannot happen without good leaders. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Doc Horowitz for leading the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD). Doc’s can-do attitude, energy, and background with a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, as well as the leadership experience he gained as a Shuttle mission commander and pilot made Doc right for the job. Doc focused on getting the program off the ground, meeting major milestones, and making sure there were opportunities for the programs within ESMD to communicate through monthly meetings and quarterly reviews.

I will miss Doc’s professionalism and candor but appreciate his priority to be with his family. Rick Gilbrech, the current Stennis Space Center Director, will replace Doc on October 1, 2007. Rick’s engineering and project management experience will be an asset for ESMD. Rick is well-known throughout the agency for his integrity and leadership ability, and I look forward to working with him in his new capacity.