Bolden Signals Big Changes Ahead

Bolden Signals Big Changes Ahead

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden visited Israel this week and spoke at the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference, named in honor of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon who perished in the 2003 space shuttle Columbia tragedy. Israel’s Arutz Sheva news service posted a video of remarks Gen. Bolden apparently made in response to a question about whether there will be another opportunity for an Israeli to fly into space. In those remarks he talks about upcoming “dramatic changes” to the U.S. human spaceflight program.

First will be termination of the space shuttle program. Gen. Bolden said that NASA would be looking to commercial entities and foreign entities “to come up with other vehicles we can use.” NASA will be working with Israel and other partners to “determine how we get people into space in the future, who are the appropriate people to fly into space in the future” because he is convinced that questions will arise as to why NASA needs astronauts at all.

While he did not provide specifics of what will be in the FY2011 budget request, he said that any human return to the Moon would have to be an international undertaking, and human exploration of Mars will not take place until it can be accomplished safely. As for trips to the International Space Station, “we have got to find another way to get humans there” and NASA will focus on “facilitating the success of … entrepreneurial interests.” Bottom line: “We’re going to have to adapt to change.”

Gen. Bolden also revealed that President Obama was briefed on the recent impact of an asteroid with Jupiter, the after effects of which were imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. The impact highlighted the threat to Earth by asteroids and comets, or Near Earth Objects (NEOs). Consequently NASA will devote more attention to NEOs than in the past, he said, though he could not quantify how much more.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel published another article today speculating about what will be in the FY2011 NASA budget. This one was based on a teleconference between Washington officials and a “few select Florida reporters” that the Sentinel said was set up in response to an earlier story it ran.

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