Enough Debate, Let’s Go to the Moon

With a presidential election campaign in full swing and congressional hearings about the transition of the space shuttle work force taking place last week, NASA’s Constellation program for planetary exploration is spurring debate about whether NASA is on the right path. After 22 years working in the space industry and currently supporting the international space station (ISS) program, let me offer a resounding “yes.”

Growing up in the shadow of Apollo and the space shuttle on the Florida Space Coast and being privileged to be a part of the Boeing teams supporting NASA’s many efforts in space, I understand first hand the importance of the space program to Florida and to our nation. And I understand the importance of staying committed to our vision.

NASA’s plan calls for completion of the ISS by 2010, followed by space shuttle retirement while carrying out a new, ambitious program to get us beyond low Earth orbit and return to the Moon by 2020. The Constellation program will accomplish this by allowing us to learn the skills and develop the technologies needed to live and work on another world. The program has received broad, bipartisan congressional support and public opinion, as measured by a recent poll that endorses NASA’s plan for the future as both affordable and achievable.

Questioning NASA’s plan now will only add cost and delay a program critical to advancing our efforts in space. Along the way in our effort to build the international space station, we paused several times to rethink and re-evaluate our mission. Despite strong initial support, lack of perceived progress driven by the many program re-evaluations worked to degrade congressional support to a low point in 1993, when the program survived by a single vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The continued re-evaluation of the program produced unnecessary cost increases and ultimately delayed realizing the significant gains in science and technology we enjoy today as a result of this key program.

We should learn from the ISS example. Subjecting the NASA Constellation effort to repeated re-evaluation and reprogramming will only increase program cost and delay breakthroughs in science and technology. NASA’s Constellation program is fundamentally sound and merits continuity in policy and funding. Let’s remain committed to our vision and get back to the Moon.

Joy L. Bryant

Vice President, ISS Program, Boeing