On Wednesday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine appeared before the United States Congress to discuss the president's budget for the 2020 budget. There, Bridenstine faced the rocket of the Space Launch System, in particular of representatives whose states have a large number of jobs linked to the program.
The questions came a day after Vice President Mike Pence announced the SLS missile program on his desire to send people by 2024 on the lunar surface. "If our current contractors can not achieve this goal, we will find those who will do so," said Pence. During Parliament's hearing on the budgets, legislators from the SLS wanted to make sure that NASA continues to use the rocket for the heavy lifting of the agency.
Alabama MEP Martha Roby, for example, asked for Bridenstine's assurance that the SLS rocket was true. A great missile without which the agency could not live: "Can you give us the main reason why SLS is the best approach for these missions and what options other alternatives do not offer? " she asked.
A representative from Florida wanted to ensure that his state, home of the Kennedy Space Center, continued to receive lucrative ground-building contracts. A Mississippi representative was worried that NASA's plan to accelerate the development of the SLS rocket would take off from the Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi, where important test firings are to be performed. Apart from Bridenstine, nobody seemed particularly worried about the goal of the Moon landing in 2024.
An Employment Program
Perhaps the most meaningful comment came from Robert Aderholt, another Alabama representative whose district is located near the Marshall Space Flight Center. He wanted to know something about Jobs.
NASA will often highlight the fact that the spacecraft support SLS rocket and Orion aerospace suppliers. For example, this agency's website cites the number of providers in each state and says, "Men and women in all 50 states are working hard to build NASA's Deep Space Exploration Systems to carry out missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond that. " According to the NASA website, there are 106 suppliers in Alabama alone.
However, the Agency and its representatives in the Congress comment on the proposal that the SLS and Orion programs are in fact employment programs. This is considered an insult. And in a sense, that's understandable – it's not like an army of good people at the agency is not working very hard on delivering the spacecraft. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that Congress sees through these programs the lens of the jobs they bring to their districts.
But what about the suppliers?
Rep. Aderholt has made clear this Wednesday in a way that is rarely seen in public. "The SLS and Orion programs are, of course, the key to the health of our national aviation suppliers, and it has really helped fuel a renewed energy boost for suppliers in all 50 states after the departure of the Space Shuttle." Aderholt said at the end Hearing.
When Congress launched the SLS Rocket in 2010 and 2011, it sought to maximize the use of Space Shuttle components and engage key entrepreneurs such as Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Northrup Grumman. Aderholt pointed out that the SLS rocket supports NASA jobs at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama, Stennis Space Center, Mississippi and Michoud Assemble Facility, Louisiana.
"Can you talk about the importance of our national space programs, such as the capabilities, the supplier base, the innovation of SLS, the Orion benefits to a wide range of users of the aerospace industry?" Asked Aderholt.
Bridenstine – himself a former Member of Parliament who left the house to become steward – described this as a big point. SLS and Orion support an industrial base that keeps America at the forefront of global space travel. Then Bridenstine went further: "I can tell you, as a former Oklahoma member of the Congress, we have many suppliers to the programs in Oklahoma doing a very important job."