CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – As NASA marked 50 years of U.S. astronauts in orbit, the current NASA leadership worked to highlight the future of U.S. human space flight. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana, both former shuttle astronauts, attended a media event at Kennedy Space Center’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility or MPPF on Thursday, Feb. 17.
The MPPF is where NASA houses a test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft. This particular Orion spacecraft was used as part of a test of the Launch Abort System (LAS) that was conducted in New Mexico in 2010.
Both Bolden and Cabana opened the question-and-answer session by highlighting the steps that have been made so far during this transitional period. As the space shuttle fleet is decommissioned and prepared to go on display in museums across the nation, new flight hardware is being delivered to KSC. Some of that hardware will be tested in a very dramatic way within the next couple of years.
Cabana, reiterated that KSC fared very well during the release of the 2013 Fiscal Year Budget proposal. Both men expressed optimism as to what the arrival of these vehicles and their testing means to the Space Coast region.
“We’re very happy to see these positive signs appear with increasing frequency at KSC, because, simply put, it means that good-paying jobs for the highly-skilled workers will remain here,” Bolden said.
The Orion within the MPPF is covered with signatures from KSC workers who have visited the building. Bolden, initially hesitated to add his signature to the spacecraft, but caved in to the requests of those present and added his autograph to the spacecraft’s extensive collection.
NASA is coordinating with Lockheed-Martin, the contactor developing the Orion spacecraft, to launch an Orion in 2014. The flight profile on this unmanned mission will emulate the same profile as a manned mission returning from deep space. This will provide NASA with crucial data on the viability of the Orion.
“When you’re two years away from a test flight, as we are with EFT-1, it gives you goose bumps,” Bolden said. “Something similar occurred with the first flight of shuttle, we didn’t go on our first attempt – but we’re a resilient bunch. You’re starting to get some of that same feeling as the hardware comes in. We do have a commercial program; its home is here at Kennedy Space Center.”