NASA Welcomes Rocket Crafters and New Jobs to Florida

Good news and the prospect of additional jobs are arriving on Florida’s Space Coast at the speed of innovation. Last week, on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy Space Center, I joined Florida Senator Bill Nelson, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, and officials from Lockheed Martin for the unveiling of the first Orion capsule that will carry our astronauts farther into space than any human has ever traveled. The work leading up to Orion’s first test flight in 2014 is expected to support at least 350 Space Coast jobs. This week, the Space Coast economy got another boost when Rocket Crafters, Inc. (RCI), a Utah-based company, announced plans to move its budding high-tech aerospace business to Brevard County. The company expects that by 2017-18, it will have about 1,300 highly skilled aerospace workers, including former space shuttle employees.

RCI holds licenses for advanced hybrid rocket and aerospace composite technologies, as well as proprietary hybrid rocket design and analysis software. The company plans to develop new suborbital flight technology that would enable the completion of an intercontinental journey in about one-sixth the time it takes a conventional airplane.

This is further evidence that the Space Coast is open for business and positioning itself for the next era of space exploration. In addition to Orion’s arrival at Kennedy Space Center, NASA has recently facilitated agreements with the Boeing Company, Craig Technologies and others to use Kennedy facilities and equipment. And SpaceX recently became the first commercial firm to launch a successful resupply mission from the Space Coast to the International Space Station.

A year after the retirement of NASA’s space shuttles, the work force at Kennedy is remaking America’s gateway to space. Over the past three years, President Obama has fought to invest almost $1.4 billion in NASA’s 21st Century Space Launch Complex and Exploration Ground Systems.

As a result, a dynamic infrastructure is taking shape, one designed to host many kinds of spacecraft and rockets sending robotic spacecraft and people on America’s next adventures.

By investing in American companies—and American ingenuity—we are spurring free-market competition to give taxpayers more bang for the buck, while enabling NASA to do what it does best—reach for the heavens. We are also ending the out-sourcing of American space jobs and bringing them right back to Florida and other states all across the country.

This strategy is producing tangible results and our teams in Florida and across the nation are making steady progress.

Orion Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

Today I joined with NASA’s good friend Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana to celebrate the arrival of the new Orion crew capsule and the 50th anniversary of Kennedy Space Center.

For 50 years, Kennedy has been America’s gateway to space.

In fact, the road to space always has – and always will – lead right through the great state of Florida.

With the delivery of this magnificent golden anniversary present there is no doubt, as the poet Robert Frost once said, “You still have promises to keep and many miles before you sleep.”

This is a milestone moment for the Space Coast, NASA and America’s space program.

Orion’s arrival here at Kennedy marks a major accomplishment in the ambitious new American space program that President Obama and Congress have approved.

It’s a new and exciting chapter in American great space exploration story, one that will see more discoveries, scientific breakthroughs, and, ultimately, more Americans in space going to places never before visited.

Two years ago, in this very building, the President set a goal of sending humans farther into space than we have ever been – to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s.

Washington agreed that the best way to do that was for NASA to turn over the delivery of cargo and crew to the International Space Station and other low-Earth destinations to private companies so that we could concentrate on building America’s next generation space exploration system, the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System.

By investing in American companies—and American ingenuity—we are spurring free-market competition to give taxpayers more bang for the buck, while enabling NASA to do what it does best—reach for the heavens.

We’re also ending the out-sourcing of American space jobs and bringing them right back here to Florida and other states all across the country.

This strategy is producing tangible results and the teams here in Florida and across the nation are making steady progress.

In May, SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, became the first private company to launch and dock to the International Space Station and return its Dragon 9 capsule safely back to Earth.

Today we are looking at further proof that our strategy is working.

When Orion takes its first test flight in 2014, it will travel farther into space than any spacecraft designed for humans has flown in the 40 years since our astronauts returned from the moon.

But we still have miles to go. Beginning today, Orion will undergo final construction and integration, supporting at least 350 Space Coast jobs.

You should also know that the President’s 2013 budget includes $500 million in investments in NASA’s 21st century Space Launch Complex and Exploration Ground Systems activities.

This will create new jobs in Florida and will help modernize and transform Kennedy Space Center’s launch infrastructure to benefit current and future government and commercial users.

NASA is a driver of innovation and economic growth, a creator of high-skilled and high-paying jobs, and a force for inspiration in the American people.

And today NASA and the Kennedy Space Center are again lifting our sights and lifting the spirit of our nation to new heights.

I want to again congratulate the team here at Kennedy and our partners at Lockheed Martin for achieving this historic milestone. Together, we are setting America’s space program on a course of greatness for the next 50 years and beyond.

Girls Scouts 100th Anniversary

Today at NASA Headquarters, we hosted Girl Scouts visiting Washington, DC for the celebration of the Girl Scouts 100th anniversary. I want to congratulate the Girl Scouts of America on a century of positive impact on girls, emphasizing achieving their full potential and developing skills to make a difference.

Since 1912, when Juliette Gordon Low first gathered 18 girls in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, the Girl Scouts has grown to 3.7 million members, including nearly 900,000 adult volunteers. It is a true testament to the positive impact of the Girl Scouts that it is the largest educational organization for girls in the world. The Girl Scouts has troops across the USA and in 92 other countries. As a former girl scout myself, I know the impact that scouting can have on young women.

In a 1929 Girl Scout Handbook, it says that the Girl Scouts were named after the explorers of the West, and noted that those pioneers needed to have courage and perseverance and endurance and understand the land through which they traveled. Today’s Girl Scouts are no less pioneers, but their frontier is one of science and technology. That same sense of courage and perseverance is going to be needed as we travel farther into our solar system and explore our universe.

The Girls Scouts are leaders in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Their approach combines STEM experiences with leadership opportunities, giving young women a chance to make a difference in their world. Many of us learn best through hands-on activities, and scouts get that opportunity in many ways. They learn to think about how their activity worked and how they would change it if they could do it again, and they learn to practice teamwork. These skills and opportunities are critical to preparing the future generation of scientists and engineers to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.

As the Girl Scouts celebrate their landmark anniversary, I would like to offer some advice to young women and girls – and pioneers – everywhere. We are often taught as girls to be nice and polite. I’ve found that too many women interpret being polite as being quiet. You can be both polite and assertive. Being assertive isn’t about being combative. It’s about speaking up. If you have an idea or see something that needs to be changed, speak up. Your voice is important.

Today’s young people will have opportunities in their lifetime that have never been available to anyone else: to travel to an asteroid, walk on Mars, study new cosmic phenomena and other missions no one has dreamed up yet.

Earlier this year, we started the process for recruiting our next class of astronauts, who will fly to the International Space Station and visit farther destinations. We have many exciting missions being built and launched right now, and our future is bright.

We will continue to need astronauts, astrophysicists, engineers, geologists, biologists, writers, educators, photographers, website designers, budget staff, and many other kinds of people at NASA. Every Girl Scout has the potential for an amazing future. I hope to see may of them working at NASA or in the wider aerospace field where so many opportunities are available for bright young people to change the world.

Congratulations, Girl Scouts of America, on 100 years of making a difference for women and girls!

Japan Visit Caps Historic Week for NASA

Last week, I had the unique opportunity to celebrate the successful berthing of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule with the ISS, while visiting one of NASA’s closest partners in space exploration, Japan. I want to join NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden in congratulating the joint SpaceX/NASA team for flawlessly executing the first commercial company launch and docking to the International Space Station. This truly marks the start of a new era in spaceflight that advances America’s leadership while creating good jobs for American workers. I can tell you that our Japanese partners were almost as excited by this achievement as we all were.

I had originally planned to visit Tokyo in April of the last year, but the tragic events surrounding the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that occurred in March 2011 required me to postpone my trip. Throughout my visit to Japan I was heartened to hear inspiring stories of recovery and to see firsthand the spirit of the Japanese people who are continuing their recovery efforts.

The highlight of my trip was strategic discussions with senior officials from the Japanese government including JAXA President Tachikawa, my counterpart and host JAXA Vice President Higuchi and other senior JAXA officials as I conducted visits to three JAXA research centers in the Tokyo area. NASA has active cooperation with Japan in almost all areas of our activities and more than 40 cooperative agreements.

During my visit I also had meetings with Motohisa Furukawa, the Minister for Space Policy, and Tenzo Okumura, the Vice Minister for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), both of whom are members of the ruling party in the Diet. The Ministers each expressed appreciation for the support NASA provided following the earthquake last year and noted that the cooperation between NASA and JAXA in space is vital to Japan. In addition to visiting JAXA Tsukuba Space Center, I went to the JAXA Sagamihara Campus, which houses space science, exploration and education activities, and JAXA Chofu Aerospace Center, which is responsible for aeronautics research. It was clear from all my interactions that the Japanese are eager to play a role in future exploration activities.

My significant interactions with government and JAXA officials were the primary purpose for my visit, but I also met with industry representatives from the U.S. (at the American Chamber of Commerce) and Japan (at the Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies) and participated in a press conference. The visit was very successful. It emphasized NASA’s high-level support for the NASA-JAXA relationship, included strategic discussions on potential future cooperative activities, and gave me the opportunity to learn more about one of America’s closest allies in space.

Robonaut 2 Team Honored

Each May we take time to honor public servants as part of Public Service Recognition Week. The men and women who serve our nation are dedicated to the goal of making government work for all Americans. I am honored to be one small part of the greatest government in the world, working with some of the best and brightest.

NASA employees can be found across the country, creating the next generation spacecraft that will carry people into our solar system, studying the building blocks of the universe, designing satellites to observe our home planet, and researching ways to make our aviation system safer, cleaner and more efficient. NASA employees are also doing things that are out of this world, living and working in orbit on the International Space Station.

Each year, the Partnership for Public Service honors outstanding federal employees who have made a significant difference in the lives of Americans.

I am delighted that one of the finalists for the 2012 Science and Environment Medal is Ron Diftler and NASA’s Robonaut 2 Team. Ron and his team developed the first humanoid robot to fly in space. With human-like hands and the dexterity to perform intricate tasks, R2 will eventually take over operations too dangerous or mundane for astronauts.

Public servants like the Robonaut team work every day to make life better, for astronauts in space and for everyone here on Earth. Thank you for all the work you do.

Test Fire of Commercial Cargo Rocket Engine

Earlier today, I was at NASA’s Stennis Space Center to watch a test of Aerojet’s AJ26 Engine E9, which will provide first-stage power for Orbtial Sciences’ Antares rockets on their ISS cargo supply missions. Orbital is preparing for an August test flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program.

A team of NASA, Orbital and Aerojet engineers monitored the hot-fire engine test on the E-1 Test Stand at Stennis. After test data is reviewed and the engine is inspected, it will be shipped to the Wallops Flight Facility launch site in Virginia for installation on the rocket.

NASA is committed to launching from American soil – on spacecraft built by American companies. We’re utilizing the skills of a talented workforce and the facilities – like those at Stennis – that have powered a nation into space for more than 50 years.

Our proposed fiscal year 2013 budget funds this important work and advances our goal of bringing human space launches back to the U.S.

By partnering with multiple companies, NASA will lower the cost of access to space and foster an innovative, American capability to transport supplies and eventually astronauts to low Earth orbit. It makes good sense for our economy and for the space program.

We are on the brink of a milestone moment in NASA space history, part of a long-term strategy that will create good-paying, high-quality jobs here in the United States. Next week, another American space company plans to launch a rocket and space capsule to the International Space Station, becoming the first private-sector firm to ever do so. Working with NASA, several other private American companies are making progress towards providing U.S.-based access to the space station.

Today’s test was the latest example of the progress being made to implement the bi-partisan exploration plan agreed to by the President and Congress – and keep the U.S. the world leader in space.

NASA research helps steward world’s water resources

On Thursday I joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Administration officials to announce NASA’s participation in a new U.S. Water Partnership as we mark World Water Day.

The U.S. Water Partnership is bringing public and private groups together to search for solutions to the challenges of accessing global water, particularly in the developing world. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also released a report outlining some of these challenges in the Global Water Security Intelligence Community Assessment.

NASA’s Earth observation research capabilities in space provide a variety of resources, ingenuity and new knowledge to tackle the global water challenge.

The conservation and purification of water is an important byproduct of NASA’s scientific and human space flight missions. Commercial application of the techniques that we have studied will allow for quick and affordable purification of any available water source. This is helping mitigate water shortages and access issues here on Earth. Click here to learn more about NASA’s water purification technology.

For more information about how NASA’s research impacts world efforts to steward water resources, check out this feature.

NASA’s FOIA Program Gets High Marks

Last week, NASA received one of the highest grades in government when the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee awarded the agency an A- for its ability to track and respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the public. Since being signed into law in 1966, FOIA has been an essential part of our nation’s commitment to government transparency. The act allows the public access to non-exempt government documents through submission of written requests. We at NASA work for the U.S. taxpayer, and as the nation’s civilian space agency, it is important that we be as open and available to public inquiries as possible.

When he took office in 2009, President Obama reinforced that commitment by issuing a memorandum to the heads of all government agencies, directing them to “renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government.” Each year, NASA receives about 1200 FOIA requests from citizens, including students, media outlets and others who are interested in some aspect of our work. We have always made an effort to respond to these requests in a timely and thorough manner. But three years ago, NASA had a huge backlog of FOIA requests. When Administrator Charles Bolden and I assumed leadership of the agency in 2009, we made communicating as openly as possible with the media and public and reducing that backlog one of our top priorities. And we have made outstanding progress.

In 2010, we hired a new Principal Agency FOIA officer, Miriam Brown-Lam. Since then, she and her team of FOIA officers and staff from our Centers across the country, have made significant business and process improvements to make our program more citizen-centric and user-friendly. As a result, we have been able to reduce our backlog of FOIA requests from 110 in 2010 to 34 last year – a reduction of 60 percent. NASA’s FOIA team continues to work to improve timeliness in responding to requests. They are required to undergo annual training to stay abreast of the latest developments, which has shown to be a value-added investment for the Agency. Because of this renewed commitment to service, accountability and excellence, Miriam tells me NASA is on track to have only a 10 percent backlog rate this year – a phenomenal achievement.

I want to congratulate Miriam Brown-Lam and NASA’s entire FOIA team for the A- we received on the House Oversight Committee report card and for their continued efforts to ensure that NASA is one of the most transparent and accountable agencies in government.

Women's History Month

March is Women’s History Month, and I encourage everyone to celebrate this year’s theme “Women’s Education ­– Women’s Empowerment” by recognizing the many accomplishments of women at NASA and throughout history.

It’s been my pleasure this year as part of NASA’s celebrations to kick off a new round of video interviews at on the popular Women@NASA website. It showcases women from diverse backgrounds with careers at NASA, telling their stories in their own words. Featured women include astronauts, engineers, scientists and administrators. They discuss their accomplishments and offer encouragement to women and girls considering technical careers to become the trailblazers of tomorrow. The website also provides information about NASA internships and career opportunities.

I also was able to participate in an important day-long conversation at George Washington University about the critical role that women play in innovation at NASA, and how we can increase our numbers and impact throughout government and the aerospace industry. I am proud of the fact that NASA is one of the largest federal employers of women in the STEM fields.

However, much work remains to be done.

While the percentage of women in the engineering field at NASA has increased substantially over the past ten years, they still only comprise 20 percent of our engineering workforce and 22 percent of our AST (science and technology) workforce. I am so proud of the outstanding achievements of our workforce, and I commend you on your efforts to promote means by which we can have NASA be as diverse in gender, ethnicity, and background as this great country of ours. A diverse workforce will create a wide variety of ideas, pushing forward innovation and making NASA better than ever. Equal representation of women in the key science, technology, engineering, and math fields will be critical to developing tomorrow’s exploration leaders.

One of our top priorities in education is to encourage women and girls to follow STEM career paths, and that’s one reason we’re so proud NASA is represented on the White House Council for Women and Girls. As part of our involvement with the Council, the Women@NASA website was created as a personal testament to the strength and hard work that so many women have poured into NASA, and to show girls everywhere that women have come from diverse backgrounds and overcome many obstacles to achieve rewarding careers.

As NASA and some other government agencies update their workplace flexibility policies for the 21st century, we will keep women’s needs strongly in mind. There is still a long way to go for women to achieve full parity in the workplace, but in the NASA Family, equality, diversity, and innovation are greatly valued and we will continue to make progress.

Please join me in celebrating Women’s History Month by uncovering and sharing the stories of the women in your life.

Visiting Marshall for the FY2013 Budget Rollout

Today I had the pleasure of visiting Rocket City during the rollout of President Obama’s FY2013 budget. The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. has had that name for many years, and it’s no wonder. The rockets powering Americans to the moon were built and test fired there. The space shuttle Enterprise rattled the center’s dynamic test stand to undergo essential structural tests before the space shuttle’s first flight. And now Marshall will help launch us farther into space than we’ve ever gone before, ushering in the next great era of exploration.

The president has presented a $17.7 billion budget for NASA – which allows for a vital and stable space program across the full spectrum of NASA’s work. It is a budget that allows us to reach for new heights, while creating jobs right here on Earth.

Like all of NASA’s centers, Marshall is involved in many aspects of NASA’s mission. It manages ISS science operations and technology development projects that will be essential to our next accomplishments in space. The Center designs, develops, integrates, tests, and fields the full range of human and robotic systems for space exploration.

Marshall will play a key role in our efforts to reach deep space, as it is where the Space Launch System, our deep space rocket to carry astronauts and the Orion crew vehicle to destinations like asteroids and Mars, will be designed and tested.

NASA’s future is based on innovation, and Marshall will be bringing its expertise to bear on some of the cutting edge challenges of our next missions. Working on things like large, composite cryogenic propellant tanks, technology demonstration missions and management of the Centennial Challenges, which continues to harness the inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit of scientists and engineers across the globe to help us develop the capabilities we’ll need to go farther into the solar system.

So it was an honor to share the day with my colleagues at Marshall and hear from the center’s workforce. Every day they’re making tomorrow’s space program happen. Launching right from Alabama to the stars.

The NASA budget and supporting information are available at: