With a big splash in the Pacific Ocean today, we are reminded that American ingenuity is alive and well and keeping our great nation at the cutting edge of innovation and technology development. Just a little over one year after we retired the Space Shuttle, we have completed the first cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. Not with a government owned and operated system, but rather with one built by a private firm – an American company that is creating jobs and helping keep the U.S. the world leader in space as we transition to the next exciting chapter in exploration.
Congratulations to SpaceX and the NASA team that supported them and made this historic mission possible. With the successful return of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule – the first of at least 12 cargo resupply missions – we’ve brought space station resupply missions back to American soil. Under President Obama’s leadership, NASA initiatives are helping develop a robust U.S. commercial space transportation industry with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the space station and low Earth orbit. In addition to cargo flights, NASA’s commercial space partners also are making progress toward launch of our astronauts from the U.S. again in just a few years.
A new era of space exploration is underway, with the commercial spaceflight milestones like we see today, and the recent opening of the nation’s newest American spaceport in Virginia, from which Orbital Sciences will launch its space station resupply missions. NASA’s other commercial partners like Sierra Nevada, Boeing, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance are making progress on an array of systems and technologies to open the next generation of low Earth transport to more users.
By allowing the private sector to take over routine transportation to the space station and other low-Earth orbit destinations, NASA can focus on the things that are too big for any one company to do right now — send our astronauts back around the Moon, to an asteroid and eventually to Mars. The Space Launch System that will carry astronauts once again to deep space and the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle in which they’ll travel are also making great progress, and in 2014, partnering with our prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, we’ll test fly Orion out to the reaches of space where the Apollo astronauts once traveled.
However, in order to focus on these deep space missions, we must have a successful partnership with private industry to take our astronauts and their cargo to the International Space Station. This is critically important to insource jobs, stimulate the economy and continue to bring crew and cargo launches back to U.S. soil, ensuring that American companies are transporting our astronauts and their supplies.
With today’s mission, we’ve closed the loop and demonstrated that American industry is ready to step up to the plate and meet our needs for transport to low Earth orbit. This work will transform our relationship to space, save money and create jobs. America remains the leader in space and technology development. A driving force toward a bright and innovative future for this nation, and an inspiration for generations to come. And we’ve just begun our march to the future.