“People frequently say, ‘But we just don’t know where NASA is going.’ Well, we do.”
Charles Bolden says NASA has three destinations: lower earth orbit — that is the International Space Station — an asteroid and Mars. He calls the ISS a “spring board” to other missions.
“Without [the] station we cannot develop the technologies and gain the knowledge of the human system that we need to be able to send people to Mars, onto an asteroid and do the other kinds of things we need.”
Bolden, who spoke at a space vehicle mock-up facility, says Houston’s Johnson Space Center plays a critical role in the implementation of those missions, because of its leadership in human research and space technology.
“You can see, I think, the tangible evidence all around us in this building of where we’re going and of the critical importance of the Johnson Space Center.”
Bolden says the proposed NASA budget of $17.7 billion would advance the strategic plan the space agency has put together. At the same time, Bolden says, he’s concerned about possible effects the automatic spending cuts, better known as the sequester, could have on the NASA budget. If the agency has to operate under the sequester next year, its current $16.8 billion budget will go down instead of up, he says.
“At the $16.8 billion level, there’s no way in the world they can continue to operate a center like JSC at the level of employment they have right now. So not only will our contractors feel it the way they are now, but we’ll have to probably begin to furlough civil servants. So, I feel good about the budget proposal. I wish I felt better about the Congress’ ability to see the seriousness of the problem and solve sequester.”
He says the time schedule for the planned missions is to capture and land on an asteroid by 2025 and land on mars in the 2030s.
If the sequester is not ended soon, Bolden says, NASA won’t be able to keep that schedule.