Babin Introduces Leading Human Spaceflight Act

Babin Introduces Leading Human Spaceflight Act

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) introduced legislation today to ensure continuous U.S. human spaceflight presence in low Earth orbit (LEO) and Johnson Space Center’s (JSC’s) “leadership role as the home of American human spaceflight.”  Babin’s congressional district includes JSC and he chairs the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and  Technology Committee.

Babin made the announcement at a subcommittee hearing where JSC Director Mark Geyer testified along with two other Center directors (Jody Singer from Marshall Space Flight Center and Bob Cabana from Kennedy Space Center) and Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations.

In his opening statement, Babin said the bill:

  • reaffirms JSC’s leadership role in the human spaceflight program;
  • recognizes JSC is the logical Center to serve a lead role in program management, systems engineering, program integration, and operations for NASA’s human spaceflight program as outlined in the human exploration roadmap submitted to Congress last Friday;
  • promotes policy to lead to a permanent and continuous U.S. human presence in LEO;
  • authorizes NASA to operate the International Space Station until 2030 or until a sustainable lower cost alternative is demonstrated; and
  • directs NASA to start work with the private sector in developing commercial capabilities to meet America’s future needs in LEO.

NASA is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary.  The hearing topic was “60 Years of NASA Leadership in Human Space Exploration: Past, Present, and Future.”

L-R: NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier, Mark Geyer, Jody Singer, amd Bob Cabana at House SS&T Committee hearing, September 26, 2018. Screengrab.

Gerstenmaier offered some profound reflections on how to think about the past and its impact on the present and the future.

As we look back on the past, we must be extremely careful. … We carry a bias as we know the outcome of the events that transpired.  We also tend to link decisions and outcomes in ways that may not be correct.  We have a natural hindsight bias and have a tendency to remember only the good things through the tragedies and we miss the subtle things that were critical to success.  We misunderstand the difficult decisions that were made with little data and appear as perfect decisions in hindsight.  We also discount the role of luck in some of our outcomes.

I can tell you from my own experience of having written many design requirements and flight rules in the past, and now hearing the new generation of engineers and designers discuss the logic for these flight rules and design criteria, their perception today for the requirements and flight rules does not match the logic or the environment in which these requirements were written.

We should learn from the past, but recognize that our view of the past is flawed and try not to develop a strategy based solely on our perception of the past.

There also are new processes and techniques that did not exist in the past. We need to look for new approaches and develop new ways of designing systems and building hardware.

The capabilities of others outside of NASA is radically different than in the past. Both private industry and countries have the ability to  contribute in huge ways that were not possible in the past.

In looking forward to the future, it is difficult to predict the exact plan or capability that we need.  — Bill Gerstenmaier

He went on to praise President Trump’s Space Policy Directive-1 (SPD-1) because it does not over-specify how to proceed, but focuses on innovative and sustainable solutions with commercial and international partners.  It also answers the “why” — to bring back new knowledge and opportunities.  “This is good policy to build off of for the future.”

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