October 22, 2020
SVP, U.S. Communications and External Affairs, BP
VP, Growth and Policy, Project Canary
Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer, and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Former Executive Director, Procurement and Space Industry Council
Director Aerospace & Aviation, Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation
On December 12, 1972, NASA’s Apollo 17 mission saw the last man on the moon. Nearly five decades later, NASA’s Artemis program plans to land the next man and the first woman on the moon by 2024.
Colorado’s thriving space sector has provided significant contributions to the Artemis program and other NASA missions. In conversation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Space Coalition shared their insights on the programs and people that will drive the next era of human deep space exploration.
Colorado’s Aerospace Sector Plays Valuable Role in Artemis and Moon to Mars Programs
Through the 1960s and 1970s, Colorado’s aerospace sector has helped provide spacecrafts, technology and astronauts for various NASA and Mars exploration missions. Today, Colorado serves as a leading contributor to NASA’s Artemis and Moon to Mars programs.
Leading aerospace company Lockheed Martin is currently building the crew module for Orion, NASA’s new space exploration spacecraft for the Artemis Mission, in the state of Colorado.
“It will be the first spacecraft to take humans to multiple destinations in deep space,” emphasized Dianne Primavera, Lieutenant Governor of Colorado. “Every time I think about this, it sounds like science fiction, but it’s being developed right here in the Rocky Mountains.”
Primavera also added that 264 Colorado companies, including small to mid-size enterprises, are contributing to NASA’s missions to send humans to the moon — and eventually Mars.
Public and Congressional Support Are Necessary to Make Deep Space Exploration a Reality
NASA’s Artemis and Moon to Mars programs present an enormous opportunity for the United States to lead the next era of space exploration. According to Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter, however, public and congressional support are necessary to make this opportunity a reality.
“People need to see the long-term approach that’s being taken, and it isn’t just day by day, but really missions [...] that take many years to accomplish,” Perlmutter explained, noting that NASA leadership has been instrumental in explaining the logistics of these missions to both Congress and the public.
When asked what people can do to help ensure the success of these space exploration programs, Perlmutter encouraged people to reach out to their senators, members of Congress, and officials within the White House and NASA to show their support.
The Artemis and Orion Programs: Multiple Spacecrafts and Missions Are Underway
Cathy Koerner, NASA’s Orion Program Manager, explained that the Orion program has three spacecraft in production for three phases of the Artemis plan.
Artemis I will orbit the moon and return to Earth; the spacecraft is being prepared for flight next year. Artemis II, targeted for 2023, will send astronauts further into space than ever before. Finally, 2024’s Artemis III will fly the first woman and the next man to the moon by 2024.
“Final machining is already underway for segments of the Artemis III crew module pressure vessel, and the European service module just shipped to Airbus this month for final assembly,” Koerner said. “Our entire team, including Lockheed Martin and their suppliers, has done an extraordinary job getting us where we are today.”
NASA Offers Opportunities for Young People to Get Involved in the Aerospace Industry
With several exciting developments underway, the aerospace industry has seemingly limitless potential for growth. Of course, the future of the industry also relies on the talent and passion of young people today.
“There are so many opportunities for young people to get involved [...] to gain information, to actually participate,” said Jim Voss, former U.S. Army Colonel and NASA astronaut. He highlighted NASA’s STEM on Station resource page, educational downlinks from the International Space Station, and even internships and student programs with NASA and Lockheed Martin.
Voss also emphasized that while astronauts are an important part of the space sector, “every type of job that you can imagine [is] replicated in our nation’s space program.” From technicians to engineers to the finance team, those on the ground play an integral role in keeping the space program running smoothly.
As our country approaches the next phase of deep space exploration, young people interested in space are sure to discover plenty of opportunities in the not-so-distant future.
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