Bolden met privately with the workers at the Johnson Space Center, and later toured a mock-up of the Orion crew capsule planned for deep space exploration.
During a press conference, he had a message for Houstonians still upset over the decision to place the retired space shuttles in other cities:
“I’m a Houstonian, okay. And nothing would have made me feel better emotionally than to be able to announce that we were going to bring an orbiter to Houston. But I’m trying to make sure as the NASA administrator that we expose the largest number of people from this country in the ability to see and touch and be close to an orbiter, and so that’s kind of the way it fell out.”
Bolden says Houstonians need to look at the bigger picture.
“We didn’t get an orbiter here, but we still run human spaceflight from here. And if that’s not important to people, if they would rather have a vehicle than running human spaceflight, then I can’t help them. I want to run human spaceflight from here the way we’ve done it for more than 30 years. For 30 years of the shuttle, for 50 some-odd years of NASA exploration.”
Bolden says the future for the Johnson Space Center lies in running the space station, training astronauts and developing the Orion crew capsule.
Bolden admits that much about the Orion program remains unknown right now.
But he says Congress seems committed to funding the next six years of work. That should pay for development and an unmanned test flight by 2017.
Bolden talked about getting people to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s.
But the exact stepping stones remain vague:
“And I don’t have an answer because these are some of the things the engineering community has to decide. Are they comfortable pressing on to Mars without doing something on the surface of the moon to give us some satisfaction that when we start an eight-month trip we’re going to be okay? And I’ve got people in both camps.”
It’s not just an engineering problem, though. It’s also a matter of budget and political priorities of future presidents and Congresses.
But Bolden seems confident that this new human spaceflight program will get about $18 billion over the next six years.
From the KUHF Health Science and Technology Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.