News / Science & Technology

New Director of Johnson Space Center Faces Cutbacks, Uncertainty

New Director of Johnson Space Center Faces Cutbacks, Uncertaintyi
X
February 08, 2013 1:54 AM
Two recent U.S. reports by the National Research Council in December, and the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel in January, have criticized U.S. space policy for lacking focus and also the funds necessary to carry out the goals set by the president and Congress. The reports echoed the complaints of many critics, including a number of former astronauts, who say the space shuttle program should not have been ended before there was another vehicle to replace it. VOA's Greg Flakus has more on the story from Houston, Texas.
New Director of Johnson Space Center Faces Cutbacks, Uncertainty
Greg Flakus
Two recent U.S. reports by the National Research Council in December, and the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel in January, have criticized U.S. space policy for lacking focus and also the funds necessary to carry out the goals set by the president and Congress. The reports echoed the complaints of many critics, including a number of former astronauts, who say the space shuttle program should not have been ended before there was another vehicle to replace it.

When the U.S. space shuttle was still flying, the Johnson Space Center in Houston was a busy place.

But now, all the shuttles are in museums and the Johnson Space Center has laid off hundreds of highly skilled technicians.

That's a shame, according to former Johnson Space Center director George Abbey, who is now at Rice University.

“Those programs and those people are gone to us, and trying to rebuild that now is going to be a real challenge,” Abbey said.

The new director of the Johnson Space Center is former astronaut Ellen Ochoa, who is working with what is left of the U.S. human spaceflight program.

“Programs do come and go. That is not always within our control here, but we want to work as hard at what is within our control, which is making our current operational programs in human space flight successful,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa says the Johnson Space Center continues its role as mission control for the International Space Station, while NASA develops new rockets and seeks cost-effective ways of using older technology.

“We understand that we are under budget constraints.  We want to make as much use of many things that we already have in development,” Ochoa said.

But experts at a recent conference at Rice University said the U.S. space program is being undermined by politics.

Professor Joan Johnson-Freese of the U.S. Naval War College says the 2010 proposal to visit an asteroid is an example of a goal with no plan.

“It's been three years now and I would suggest if that is, in fact, a goal they are serious about, there ought to be first steps taken,” Johnson-Freese said.

The conference panel also called for more coordination between U.S. government laboratories, the Defense Department and NASA - and for more international cooperation.

Former U.S. astronaut and International Space Station commander Leroy Chiao cites successful cooperation with Russia as a guide.

“I think we should expand that leadership to include countries like China.  China is the only other country - only other entity right now - capable of launching astronauts into space,” Chiao said.

But cooperation with China on space endeavors has been blocked by Congress, and funding of the U.S. program is threatened by Congressional budget battles.

Still, Ochoa remains upbeat about NASA's future.

“We are doing everything we can, day by day, to move exploration forward," Ochoa said.

But NASA's ambitious plans for space exploration will ultimately depend on cost-conscious lawmakers in the U.S. Congress, now struggling to reduce the nation's massive budget deficit.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs