GRAIL and Jobs

If there’s any doubt that the Space Coast will continue to be open for business, that thought was drowned out by the roar of the latest NASA launch from Florida. NASA’s GRAIL spacecraft, the second major mission to launch from Florida since the final space shuttle flight in July, is on its way to the moon – and it carries the hopes and dreams of a nation with it.

On August 5, NASA launched Juno from Florida on its five-year journey to Jupiter. In November, we will launch the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), Curiosity, a rover that will help us evaluate the likelihood that life has ever existed on Mars and serve as a precursor to a future human mission to the Red Planet. The vast amount of information that GRAIL sends us will be mined by scientists and students for decades to come. With these and many other exciting upcoming missions, it’s clear that NASA is taking its next big leap into deep space exploration, and the space industry continues to provide the jobs and workers needed to support this critical effort.

GRAIL and MSL created good-paying American jobs. More than 3000 people nationwide were employed just on these two missions alone, from spacecraft design and processing through ground operations and ongoing mission management after the spacecraft reach their destinations.

As President Obama looks for ways to put America back to work, NASA continues to be an engine of job growth and economic opportunity. The President has repeatedly stressed that the only way for America to win the future is to out innovate, out educate, and out build our global competitors. Those three goals have been central to NASA’s mission from the beginning. We continue to stretch the boundaries of science and the possible. Our partnerships to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers — to support the jobs of tomorrow — are growing. And our collaborations with private industry are enhancing our ability to design and build the most technologically advanced spacecraft in the world to explore new destinations and take humans farther into space.

The GRAIL mission exemplifies that potential. As GRAIL was being prepared for launch, I visited with the people who were making it possible – the engineers, scientists, mission planners and frontline workers. GRAIL was built by Lockheed Martin, and it is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The mission’s principal investigator comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. AstroTech, a company in Titusville, Florida, processed the spacecraft and ensured it was ready for its dramatic launch, and United Launch Alliance made sure GRAIL had a textbook ride to orbit on its Delta II rocket.

GRAIL is only the latest in a long line of NASA programs that have brought jobs and opportunity to local communities all across this nation. From California to Florida, the space industry is strong and growing. With the bold new course we are on, that growth will only continue.

For more than 50 years, communities that have partnered with NASA have been the launch pads of American imagination, exploration, and innovation. Our greatest technological breakthroughs and scientific discoveries have been made possible by people who might be your next-door neighbors. And as we invest in space, it is critical to remember that the money we spend to get there is actually spent here on Earth. GRAIL will tell us about the moon’s gravity fields and how our near neighbor formed, from crust to core. That will help us understand our solar system a little better, and help inspire the next generation of exploration leaders. But right here in our back yard, it’s also one more dynamic way that NASA is creating jobs and economic growth.

For more information about GRAIL, visit:


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, stands in front of the Atlas V first stage booster while taking questions from the media, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The booster will help send NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover to Mars later this year. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)