Continued from Part 1

As we saw in the aftermath of September 11, our economic security has a direct relationship to our national security standing.

Our renewed focus to education means not only inspiring our youth but also providing educators with the tools they need to teach math and science and to improve the country’s scientific literacy – and we have those tools available today. We just need to be more creative in how to make them available to inspire our youngest generation to pursue these inquiries.

In short, we want to make science and discovery, exploration and research, cool – exciting for kids to want to learn more and draw on natural human inquisitiveness. And if we don’t motivate our youngest generation now – in kindergarten and through high school – there is little prospect this generation will choose to pursue scientific disciplines later.

That brings me to the last part of the mission statement – we do all these things – as only NASA can.

NASA is the nation’s leading research and technology organization. Our unique vantagepoint, from space, gives us tools and a perspective that is unparalleled and one that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.

The fact is that there are things that only NASA can do and they would not get done if NASA does not do them. But we have to avoid getting distracted with challenges that call for simply incremental or marginal improvements – we must be dedicated to overcoming limits by finding entirely new ways to achieve objectives.

The biggest difference is that the mission is science-driven and that it will be carried out in a new commitment to fiscal responsibility and wise use of our assets, and with the synergy that comes from working with other government agencies, industry and academia.

We will carry out these grand objectives under the program set out by the President in his management agenda. NASA, along with the rest of the federal government, will be:

  • Citizen-centered;
  • Results-oriented;
  • Market-based, actively promoting innovation through competition;
  • And by focusing on that which only NASA can do and avoid duplicating that which may be achievable elsewhere.

The President has called for a government that is active but limited; one that focuses on priorities and does them well.

That same spirit is being brought to the work of management reform.

Rather than pursue an array of management initiatives, the President has elected to identify the government’s most glaring problems – and solve them.

The President’s Management Agenda is a starting point for management reform, and the guide to NASA’s own reform in the way we do business, improving performance and in the way we meet our objectives.

Let me say a few words about how our vision for the future and our mission statement, carried out under the terms of the President’s Management Agenda, will affect what you will see coming from NASA in the next few years.

The big sea change is two-fold. First, as I said when I began this talk is the move to science-driven missions. We will let the science of exploration and discovery tell us where to go next. Second is to use technology to enable advances and to view this as step functions to facilitate greater achievements.

For example, there is a necessary link and connection between our human space flight program and our work in robotics. NASA must eliminate the stovepipes and build an integrated strategy that links human space flight and robotic space flight in a stepping stone approach to exploration and discovery.

The synergy this will create is truly exciting. Serendipity is a big player in invention and discovery – so is thinking outside the box. Who knows what great things will come from having exobiologists work with human factors specialists? The possibilities are infinite.

And … on the bean-counting side – which it has been observed that I focus on a lot – is the fact that this approach leverages our resources tremendously.

In the next few years you will see robotic precursor missions and crosscutting technologies developed to support exploration and learning on the part of both humans and robots.

I’ve told you a lot about our plans for the near term and for the future. In the end the big question is: What does America gain from NASA? In other words, why should you care about this?

In a nutshell, NASA’s work

  • Inspires Americans and unites people
  • Gives us a deeper understanding of life, ourselves, and the universe
  • Enables new industries by investing in new technologies
  • Educates a new generation of leaders and explorers

But let’s face it: the American people expect us to make good use of our resources – that is, our tax dollars. Our roadmap for the future does just that.

After the Mars mission setbacks, NASA undertook a very critical assessment of what happened and the process that lead to that failure.

We are undertaking a similar critical assessment started when it became clear that the space station program was over-budget and are making changes. We learn from our mistakes, correct the problems, and move on. This is what the American public expects us to do. After all … we are blazing a trail – as Lincoln said – to “regions hitherto unexplored.”

We are doing things that have never been done before. Mistakes, incorrect estimates, unforeseen problems are going to happen. If everything were to move along without a hitch I would be suspicious that we are not being bold enough, not fulfilling our mandate to push the envelope.

We must live the ethos Teddy Roosevelt intoned a hundred years ago:

“Far better it is to dare mighty things to win glorious triumphs, even those checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory or defeat.”

But a prudent exercise of risk management requires the focus on a few absolutes. First, we must be selective in our pursuits, which require NASA’s unique talent. Being selective and focused assures that we concentrate on working through the risks.

Second, we need to establish “stretch goals” which will be risky by definition – but then again, if they weren’t, others would be pursuing them. But in selecting goals we must be honest with ourselves as to the efforts and resources that will be required. And once attained, we must manage these outcomes responsibly and continually improve performance.

Inspiration is born of understanding. Knowing more about our origins as observed in the far reaches of space billions of light years away is important for the human spirit and for understanding our place in the universe. It is the nature of the human spirit to want to know more. This is NASA’s noble mission – to know more so that we can understand ourselves.

As I’ve been telling you today, NASA has to do things differently in the future. One fundamental difference is a need to find new ways to explore the galaxy.

Conventional rockets and fuel simply aren’t practical as we reach further out into the cosmos. That’s why we are launching an initiative to explore the use of nuclear propulsion.

One of the major obstacles of deep space travel is finding fast and efficient ways to get around – to get to anywhere. Today’s spacecraft travel at speeds slightly faster than John Glenn’s Friendship 7 did 40 years ago.

NASA has explored the use of solar sails and ion engines as alternatives to conventional fuels, but their uses are limited and restricts us to very close-in objectives – or if used for deep space exploration, require us to wait a long time before we see results – a minimum of 10 years, for example, to get to the edge of our own solar system, and a lot longer if we miss the “sling shot” effect of optimum planet alignment.

So the nuclear propulsion initiative is the next logical step to overcome this technology limitation. It’s a mature technology and its application to space travel has great potential.

The US Navy has been operating nuclear powered vessels since 1955. In that time, the Navy has sailed more than 120 million miles without incident … and has safely operated these efficient power generators for more than 5,000 reactor-years. And throughout that time, the Navy has designed more compact, safer, and more efficient reactors, which last the 40-year life of the vessels without refueling.

The technology is there. We just need to take it to the next step to increase speed and on-orbit time – thereby beginning to overcome this persistent technical limitation.

If we’re going to pioneer the future as only NASA can, we’re going to need new ways to get us there.

Not a day goes by without our receipt of inquiries from young people who want to work for NASA. “What should I study,” they ask. “How can I go to work for NASA,” they ask. Clearly we are inspiring the next generation of explorers already … but we need to do a lot more … now more than ever.

A theme I’ve sought to weave through the talk today has been the contributions and dedication of our people. This is why we have made not only inspiration, but also education, a core mission component. This is vital to our country.

In that regard, NASA has an unfinished mission. The mission was begun in 1986 … but it ended in tragedy for seven families, for the NASA family, and for the world.

The January 28, 1986, accident that resulted in the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger and its crew – Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe – brought to a halt one of NASA’s most important initiatives – the Teacher in Space program.

Christa McAuliffe had embarked on a history-making journey whose purpose was to take our children … and the rest of us … on a journey of learning that only NASA could make possible. She carried with her the imagination and hopes of school children and adults from around the world. The tragic events of that day marked us all.

There is no question that educators have a profound impact on young people.

Every one of us has a personal memory of a teacher – in elementary school, perhaps, or high school – who we remember to this day. We all have a personal story about a teacher who introduced us to a new concept – the works of Shakespeare, perhaps, or the order and precision of the world of mathematics.

After our parents, no adults have a greater impact on us during our formative years than our teachers.

Similarly, few things catch the imagination of young people as readily as the space program. I can tell you this from experience.

Just a few weeks ago our astronauts on the International Space Station – Carl Walz and Dan Bursch – were kind enough to remember my birthday. The surprised me by calling me at home … from space. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this was coming so I wasn’t home when they called. They left a message on the answering machine.

My two sons got home before I did and played back the messages. By the time I got home, I had a house full of kids listening to the message from space over and over again. Do kids get excited about space? You bet they do.

It is time for NASA to complete the mission – to send an educator into space to inspire and teach our young people.

To achieve that goal, shortly after completion of the core elements of the International Space Station, expected in 2004, I am pleased to announce Barbara Morgan has been selected to begin her mission as the first Educator Mission Specialist.

Mrs. Morgan’s mission will be the first of a series of flights in the new Educator Mission Specialist Program. Working in partnership with Education Secretary Rod Paige, we will soon release the details of our national recruitment program for follow-on missions.

It is fitting that Mrs. Morgan be the first educator to complete this mission. She trained with the Challenger crew and was Christa McAuliffe’s backup. Since the Challenger accident she has worked with NASA and countless science organizations, keeping alive Christa McAuliffe’s inspiration and the dream of an Educator in Space program … and she returned to the place she loves best … the elementary school classroom in McCall, Idaho. She began her teaching career on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana after she graduated from Stanford.

But now Mrs. Morgan is well on her way to space. She has been training and working at the Johnson Space Center since 1998. NASA and the children of the world look forward to wishing Mrs. Morgan a hearty Godspeed as she lifts off to begin these most important missions at long last.

It is vital that we inspire our young people to learn and to teach. I have mentioned the alarming shortage of teachers qualified to teach science and math. I hope that NASA’s new direction in this area – in the person of Barbara Morgan and those who will follow her – will result in a new crop of young, invigorated educators who see clearly the importance of their contribution to our society.

We will recruit teachers to educate students from the unique vantage point of space. There is no more important profession than that of teacher.

When I came home to find a house full of excited kids listening to my voicemail from space, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those kids – my sons included – will remember that voicemail as a turning point … as the moment that they began to aspire to work in space or work on telescopes, or work to design the next propulsion system for space exploration. How many more young lives can we affect by inspiring them with the wonder of the final frontier?

What is it that inspires folks to the wonders of exploration?

Like Dr. Charles Elachi – who at the age of 11 in a village in Lebanon first began to dream of space exploration. Today, he leads our Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in California.

Or Dr. Ghassem Asrar, a first-generation Iranian who came to this country to pursue his interest in science, now leads NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise.

Or the head of our human space flight program – Fred Gregory – growing up as a young African-American in Washington, DC, during segregation, appointed to the Air Force Academy, became a test pilot – and a three-time Space Shuttle veteran.

A more recent explorer, take Dr. Andrea Donnellan. She was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award recently for her breakthrough study of earthquakes using global positioning technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She is the face of NASA’s future science.

Or finally – Kelvin Manning, who can be found in the front row of the Firing Room at the Kennedy Space Center. This former Eagle Scout was recently honored with the 2002 Black Engineer of the Year Award.

Something inspired each of them … and many others in NASA … to come from their very diverse backgrounds and join in humankind’s quest to know more, to explore, to push the envelope.

So, while we can marvel at the hardware we fly to space and the dramatic images our mission capture … we have to remember that it’s the people who make it all worthwhile.

From the astronauts … to the scientists … to the engineers … to the people who provide administrative support … and now, to the educators – this agency’s greatest strength is the people who devote their lives to NASA.

We have an obligation – in fact, a sacred trust – to keep that spirit alive, to ensure that there will be a next generation of explorers.

This is NASA’s new vision for the future:

  • To improve life here,
  • To extend life to there,
  • To find life beyond

This is the roadmap our people will follow into this new millennium.

These are exciting times. We are on the threshold of discovery and we hope to take you on that journey into the future.

We will pioneer the future. And, as Lincoln tasked us, we will “disdain the beaten path and seek regions hitherto unexplored.”

Thank you for your support and for having me here to speak with you today.

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