Author Topic: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission  (Read 11128 times)

Offline Semmel

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Not really a surprise to this forum, but it seems NASA is going public with the lack of funding for a human Mars mission.

Ars technica link: https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/07/nasa-finally-admits-it-doesnt-have-the-funding-to-land-humans-on-mars/

They quote Gerstenmaier:
Quote
"I can't put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars," said NASA's William H. Gerstenmaier, responding to a question about when NASA will send humans to the surface of Mars. "And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars."

Link to the video given in the article: https://livestream.com/AIAAvideo/PropEnergy2017/videos/159704854

(I had no time to view that)
« Last Edit: 07/14/2017 09:35 AM by Semmel »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #1 on: 07/14/2017 10:34 AM »
The timing of finally admitting this publicly is interesting. What was said has been obvious for years but clearly NASA didn't feel able to say it. So I wonder whether saying it now is due to a lead from the new administration or an attempt to influence policy in the current policy vacuum?

I assume the former, as my impression is that career NASA people like Gerstenmaier don't speak without at least implicit approval? Especially as I imagine some in congress may not be best pleased at now being told that the previous official line was incorrect?

Offline Semmel

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #2 on: 07/14/2017 11:16 AM »
The sentence about the funding was sot of barried by a lot of words talking how hard EDL is. But there is something else reeeeaaally interesting (watching the video now. You should do that too. Seriously.)

Quote by Gerstenmaier:
Quote
In the Apollo era, it was really neat because we didnt think we were so smart. So the requirement was to put human to the moon and return them safely. It didnt talk about stable orbit rendezvous, it didnt talk about the propulsion systems to be used, it didnt talk about all the other pieces. And in today’s world, sometimes our requirements generators think they know all these wonderful things. So they give us all these top level requirements and specified details that are maybe more problematic than helpful. So my guidance is to those that give me requirements: think simply and ask what you want us to really do. Dont give us the details about all the other things that need to be accomplished and are interesting but not necessarily contribute to what you really want us to do. And then let us trade through flexibility all thous other things you are going for.

PS: Really fantastic question and asnwers. A lot more interesting quote than the nugget about the funding. This Q&A should be transcripted by someone. I dont have the time for it (did the piece above) but I actually need to work and earn money. That is much better than the small quote that Ars Technica picked out.
« Last Edit: 07/14/2017 11:22 AM by Semmel »

Offline jgoldader

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #3 on: 07/14/2017 03:30 PM »
This could really cause a lot of ulcers.  My first thought was, selling the "Gateway" just became a lot harder.
Recovering astronomer

Offline Rocket Science

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #4 on: 07/14/2017 03:54 PM »
Bill Nye's take...
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
~Rob, Physics instructor, aviator, vintage auto racer

Online tdperk

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #5 on: 07/14/2017 05:42 PM »
Not really a surprise to this forum, but it seems NASA is going public with the lack of funding for a human Mars mission.

Ars technica link: https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/07/nasa-finally-admits-it-doesnt-have-the-funding-to-land-humans-on-mars/

They quote Gerstenmaier:
Quote
"I can't put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars," said NASA's William H. Gerstenmaier, responding to a question about when NASA will send humans to the surface of Mars. "And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars."

Link to the video given in the article: https://livestream.com/AIAAvideo/PropEnergy2017/videos/159704854

(I had no time to view that)

Going public with it?  Who did they think didn't know?

Online okan170

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #6 on: 07/14/2017 06:22 PM »
Not really a surprise to this forum, but it seems NASA is going public with the lack of funding for a human Mars mission.

Ars technica link: https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/07/nasa-finally-admits-it-doesnt-have-the-funding-to-land-humans-on-mars/

They quote Gerstenmaier:
Quote
"I can't put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars," said NASA's William H. Gerstenmaier, responding to a question about when NASA will send humans to the surface of Mars. "And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars."

Link to the video given in the article: https://livestream.com/AIAAvideo/PropEnergy2017/videos/159704854

(I had no time to view that)

Going public with it?  Who did they think didn't know?

Its been public for 10+  years that they can't afford to do a traditional-style manned Mars mission with the current budget, even without SLS/Orion.  Thats been part of the impetus for pushing partnerships as much as they have in the gateway and other ideas. 

The real reason this is "news" is that outlets are running this as another opportunity attack on SLS/Orion while pushing for commercial to take over most everything... again.   Gotta push that narrative-trying to kill programs with half-truthful PR.  ::) 

Offline IRobot

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #7 on: 07/14/2017 07:05 PM »
The real reason this is "news" is that outlets are running this as another opportunity attack on SLS/Orion while pushing for commercial to take over most everything... again.   Gotta push that narrative-trying to kill programs with half-truthful PR.  ::)
At least the half-truthers are launching full rockets.

I know it is an easy jab, but if this program was being run as a normal program (let´s say a new smartphone development) inside a private company, SLS option would have been discarded long ago.

Online okan170

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #8 on: 07/14/2017 07:42 PM »
The real reason this is "news" is that outlets are running this as another opportunity attack on SLS/Orion while pushing for commercial to take over most everything... again.   Gotta push that narrative-trying to kill programs with half-truthful PR.  ::)
At least the half-truthers are launching full rockets.

I know it is an easy jab, but if this program was being run as a normal program (let´s say a new smartphone development) inside a private company, SLS option would have been discarded long ago.

The full rockets aren't the ones they're talking about. 

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #9 on: 07/14/2017 08:17 PM »
Those outside of NASA have been saying this for years, and Congress has been told this too:

With Current Budget, NASA Will Never Get to Mars - io9/Gizmodo

Relevant quote from the article, which was about Thomas Young and Steven Squyres testifying before Congress:

"At today's House hearing for the NASA Authorization Act of 2013, witness Thomas Young was asked how long it would take the Agency to put a human on Mars with its current budget. His response was unambiguous: “Never.”"

The key part of the question though was "with it's current budget". And so far Republicans in Congress are not ready to change that, with an essentially flat HSF NASA funding proposal wending it's way through Congress for the FY2018 fiscal year.

And regardless the situation with the SLS, our U.S. Government has not really come to grips with WHY U.S. Taxpayers should send U.S. Government employees to Mars. Sure, "science" is always a good answer, but "science" funding has it's limits with regards to funding, which I think we're seeing today.

However ask yourself this - if Elon Musk is able to get his interplanetary transportation system working, and he only charges $500,000 per person for colonists, do you think that would be inexpensive enough for our government to buy a few seats on an early trip to Mars? I think they would go, as would many other governments.

So we can't ignore cost as a significant factor for why NASA can't get to Mars with it's current budget. And does the Orion and SLS address the cost issue? Not that I can see.

But even without the Orion and the SLS, if they were cancelled tomorrow, it would still take NASA a long time to get to Mars. And that's because NASA tends to over-engineer things because of how risk-adverse it has become. Which relates to "WHY" the U.S. Government is going to Mars, since if it was really, really important, like the Apollo program was during the Cold War, then NASA would be allowed to accept more risk - to take chances and live more with failure.

However I just don't see a big desire within our current Congress to create a brand new program to send government employees to Mars. Pursue existing programs, sure, but authorizing a new program is unlikely.

My $0.02
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Lar

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #10 on: 07/14/2017 08:49 PM »
The real reason this is "news" is that outlets are running this as another opportunity attack on SLS/Orion while pushing for commercial to take over most everything... again.   Gotta push that narrative-trying to kill programs with half-truthful PR.  ::) 

I don't think most news outiets have attacking SLS/Orion as an explicit agenda item, much less pushing commercial[1] They just want eyeballs. And this is a way to get them.

1 - with some exceptions, such as reason.com for example...
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline Endeavour_01

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #11 on: 07/14/2017 09:15 PM »
Not really a surprise to this forum, but it seems NASA is going public with the lack of funding for a human Mars mission.

Lack of funding for a human Mars landing. There are still missions that could be done (such as flybys) within the foreseen budgets.

This isn't really a surprise to anyone. The hardest part of a Mars surface mission is actually landing, surviving, and then getting off the surface. While I think it is most certainly doable lets not pretend that it can be done cheaply.

It doesn't matter if SLS/Orion are cancelled or not. NASA will still need a budget increase to actually land people on Mars.

The real reason this is "news" is that outlets are running this as another opportunity attack on SLS/Orion while pushing for commercial to take over most everything... again.   Gotta push that narrative-trying to kill programs with half-truthful PR.  ::) 

I don't think most news outiets have attacking SLS/Orion as an explicit agenda item, much less pushing commercial[1] They just want eyeballs. And this is a way to get them.

1 - with some exceptions, such as reason.com for example...

I agree that most news outlets don't attack SLS/Orion and promote commercial as an explicit agenda item (although many forget to note NASA's involvement in things like CRS and CCP and in their ignorance misinform people). That said, the author of the article the OP posted (among others) has been on an anti-SLS/Orion crusade for a while now.

SLS has benefits beyond just transportation of cargo. The DST design seems to be based heavily on the Skylab II proposal which would use SLS tanks to form a hab module. Also if TPTB listen to Gerst SLS/Orion will be partnered with commercial rockets which will allow faster construction of the DSG and more missions to cis-lunar space.
« Last Edit: 07/14/2017 09:22 PM by Endeavour_01 »
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Online okan170

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #12 on: 07/14/2017 10:25 PM »
I don't think most news outiets have attacking SLS/Orion as an explicit agenda item, much less pushing commercial[1] They just want eyeballs. And this is a way to get them.

1 - with some exceptions, such as reason.com for example...

True.  Often its the easiest path as thats what they hear from the fans they encounter, and the PR they're drumming up.  When you get articles like this that come out pretty regularly... then you're probably dealing with someone pushing an agenda of their own.  Most of it is that its easiest just use incidental opinions that SpaceX's fanbase puts out there, hardly putting out a reasonable position, but getting those clicks.

Offline pathfinder_01

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #13 on: 07/15/2017 04:10 AM »

The real reason this is "news" is that outlets are running this as another opportunity attack on SLS/Orion while pushing for commercial to take over most everything... again.   Gotta push that narrative-trying to kill programs with half-truthful PR.  ::)

If Commercial would take over then mechanisms would exist for possibly doing missions for less in the future. Namely competition from other companies. Development of new systems being funded by more than just NASA HSF(i.e. Private funds, Other Government organizations like the Air Force). As well as costs being spread over multiple users. There is little hope of SLS or Orion ever being much cheaper than they are now.


I am no fan of the major reorganization needed but human history is the story of people figuring out how to do thing cheaper or better and a program that is fundamentally about jobs is one that isn't going to be about efficiency.

If the government controlled trains there would be limited models of locomotives. Development of new locomotive technology would be dictated by Congress. So say going from wood to coal burning locomotives could never occur until Congress gave the funds and states where the wood came from would oppose. You could possibly get money to switch from iron rails to steel rails, but reducing the rail laying crew could be meet with opposition. There would be a more or less fixed amount of money to transport stuff and it could even be transported free or at extremely low rates, but you could never tap into demand to fund more transportation(i.e. extending the system or getting more trains per day would be difficult).

The problem is that you can not go to mars on any reasonable budget and frankly the moon likely isn't looking much better. The solution is development of new rocket/transport systems that cost less and there isn't much incentive for Congress to do so.

Offline Proponent

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #14 on: 07/15/2017 10:49 AM »
The real reason this is "news" is that outlets are running this as another opportunity attack on SLS/Orion while pushing for commercial to take over most everything... again.   Gotta push that narrative-trying to kill programs with half-truthful PR.  ::)

If by "commercial to take over most everything" you mean launch services, could you explain what's wrong with that.  There is, after all, only one US launch vehicle that is not commercially operated.

If you mean most of NASA's functions, could you please explain what your evidence is.

Offline rayleighscatter

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #15 on: 07/15/2017 01:05 PM »
This could really cause a lot of ulcers.  My first thought was, selling the "Gateway" just became a lot harder.

Actually the announcement may be more consistent with keeping the gateway as a lunar orbiting station.

Offline kraisee

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #16 on: 07/15/2017 01:49 PM »
Sad to see this, but not really a surprise.   We've all known SLS kept growing its budget problems, largely due to political impetus.   It never needed to be such an expensive hog of resources, and Orion didn't need to be as expensive as it has become either.   But that's exactly what congress pushed for, and that's what they provided funds for.   They got exactly what they wanted.

I particularly feel sorry for the hundreds of great engineers around the country who have been fighting hard for this programme, all of whom have been thoroughly let down by bad management.

Unfortunately, it doesn't help the rest of us who want to make real progress in this sector.   During DIRECT we tried to push the simple point that if the launcher and spacecraft don't take up the entire budget, there will be more projects (landers, rovers, habitats etc.) that could also be funded and the larger programme would benefit.

We pushed for a DIRECT evolution of the 4-seg STS-sized core stage, specifically to reduce the budget and schedule as much as possible for this exact reason - but nobody with the power wanted to hear that, usually because they benefited in some way from having fewer and much larger projects.   This writing has been on the wall since 2005.   Colour me totally un-shocked.

From where I sit, it looks like SpaceX's ITS project does have a reasonable chance of still reaching Mars by 2033 - maybe even a lot sooner than that.   NASA's usual suppliers have definitely had their fair chance.   If, after the many billions of public treasure that they have already spent, it is now clear that they cannot reach Mars with SLS/Orion, I think it's time for the agency to re-evaluate their position.

I personally think it is time start channeling a lot more of NASA's money in the other direction, to those new companies who do still believe they can achieve these ambitious goals.   The only question now (and it is the most important one) is "how to align the politics?"

Ross.
« Last Edit: 07/15/2017 02:16 PM by kraisee »
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Offline AncientU

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #17 on: 07/15/2017 02:27 PM »
People talk about the budget being inadequate... (Gerst alluding to the 2% increase). 
That's not the problem at all.

Gerst also said,
Quote
“I can’t name the date of landing a man on Mars, and the reason for this is, in fact, is at the level of the budget. Now the launch, descent and landing on Mars is a huge problem for us. NASA have only 40 percent of the required budget,” said William Gerstenmaier.

http://micetimes.asia/nasa-will-not-send-people-to-mars/

Current budget at 40% of what is required means that 250% of current budget is needed.  All of this talk about SLS/Orion being 'affordable' was just refuted by the head of NASA's human spaceflight program.  Hard to say he is an SLS/Orion hater with an agenda to give it all to commercial -- AFAIK, anyway.
« Last Edit: 07/15/2017 02:27 PM by AncientU »
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #18 on: 07/15/2017 03:18 PM »
Certainly one of the frustrating things for me is that I have a program management background, so when a goal has been set and barriers are encountered I naturally look for ways around them.

Here we have NASA saying that they can't afford to get to Mars, but though they won't admit it, they are refusing to look "outside the box" for alternatives. Some of the potential alternatives are:

A. Make the case more clearly for why the U.S. Government should be going to Mars, define the budget needed, and then have the President expend some political capital to get the money needed.

B. If the approach you're trying to use is too expensive, then consider alternatives. For instance, if launch costs are the biggest expense, then consider alternative transportation systems. If Mars is such an important goal then let's not get emotional about the sacrificial lambs - the goal is Mars, not what brand of hardware we use.

C. Elon Musk and SpaceX have stated publicly that they are going to Mars. The least expensive way for the U.S. Government to get government employees to Mars would be to buy a bunch of tickets and wait until they go - who cares if they are years behind their goal of 2023, since that will still be well before NASA could get there.

What a lot of people like to ignore though is that the U.S. Government has NOT decided that we should send government employees to Mars - so far they are only willing to consider it. All this talk is about the wishes of one small agency within the U.S. Government, but it does not reflect the near-term wishes of the President or our Congress.

Until that changes it won't matter which approach is used, because there won't be any money for it or official support, so STEP #1 is to get political buy-in on the need to send government employees to Mars. Until that happens no one knows what the goals are or what the options are.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Endeavour_01

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Re: NASA does not have the funds for a crewed Mars mission
« Reply #19 on: 07/15/2017 06:24 PM »
Sad to see this, but not really a surprise.   We've all known SLS kept growing its budget problems, largely due to political impetus.



All of this talk about SLS/Orion being 'affordable' was just refuted by the head of NASA's human spaceflight program.  Hard to say he is an SLS/Orion hater with an agenda to give it all to commercial -- AFAIK, anyway.

It seems a lot of people want to blame SLS/Orion and act like if we cancel these programs we can go to Mars tomorrow. AncientU unknowingly refutes that argument by stating the budget numbers from Gerst. The Exploration budget, which consists of SLS/Orion/EGS as well exploration R&D, is around $4.3 Billion. I think this is the "40%" number that Gerst refers to.  SLS/Orion/EGS take up around $3.9 Billion (which is less than STS did BTW). Even if SLS/Orion/EGS are completely superfluous and you add their budget to EDL efforts you would still need around $3 Billion extra a year in order to get the budget that Gerst says is needed.

Quote
From where I sit, it looks like SpaceX's ITS project does have a reasonable chance of still reaching Mars by 2033 - maybe even a lot sooner than that.


We'll see. I certainly wish them well and believe that they can achieve it but full scale ITS will be a project of massive proportions. New launch pad, new manufacturing center, new engines, and of course the massive scale of both the rocket and spacecraft. I want to see the system mature before we throw all our hopes and dreams into it.

It is important to note here that commercial companies can have a lot of uncertainty when it comes to future plans. Some companies can go belly up (see XCOR), Some have been promising flights for years but are still working on their spacecraft (see VG), Some change their plans when something proves too difficult or a better idea comes along (like SpaceX and F5).

What I am trying to say here is that now one can know the future. To use a hypothetical lets imagine that at some point in the future TPTB decided to cancel SLS/Orion and base our entire space program around FH. Unfortunately, SpaceX comes back to them and says that FH is in the process of being retired since they want to focus on say a sub-scale BFR or a F9 with a Raptor US. Either way the space industry suffers. If SpaceX agrees to provide FH's that means that their plans are pushed back. If they don't then our space program grinds to a halt because a capability that was assumed to be available no longer is.

My point is that we should let things play out. Let SLS/Orion mature and fly, let the commercial systems mature and fly. Not only with that provide a wealth of capability, it will allow an informed choice to be made on which launchers to use moving forward. Maybe it will be a mixture of SLS and commercial; maybe it will be all commercial. I don't know. We shouldn't be picking winners and losers now.

Quote
NASA's usual suppliers have definitely had their fair chance.   If, after the many billions of public treasure that they have already spent, it is now clear that they cannot reach Mars with SLS/Orion,


Part of that "many billions" spent has gone to creating and or strengthening the commercial sector we have today. Without the shuttle and ISS there would be no commercial cargo or commercial crew. There would be no SpaceX (as Elon Musk himself says) without NASA investment.

Aside: NASA's entire human spaceflight budget over the last 60 years is around the budget of the military for 1 year and around 1/4th of the budget for entitlements for 1 year. I have a feeling that wasted NASA money is a drop in the bucket compared to the waste in the aforementioned programs.

Quote
I personally think it is time start channeling a lot more of NASA's money in the other direction, to those new companies who do still believe they can achieve these ambitious goals.   The only question now (and it is the most important one) is "how to align the politics?"

As yes, the "give all the money to x commercial company argument." Allow me to let the indefatigable Chris Bergin respond to that:

You can be absolutely sure SpaceX won't progress past satellite launches at any pace without NASA. In fact, they might not even be doing that without NASA. Don't trust me, trust Elon and Gwynne on that. They make a point about NASA in nearly every presser.

So the "kill NASA and give it all to SpaceX" crowd are incredibly misinformed. Sure, some of it is lobbyists with personal and professional agendas under the "fiscal responsibility" banner where they think they will be able to clear national debt by killing an agency that gets 0.4 percent of the budget yet generates everything you get from NASA, which is vast, yet don't say boo to a goose when many more billions gets wasted on FAR LESS worthy projects.

If anything the problem is NASA is so useful it has been utilized into working on too many things, meaning the funding is stretched. It needs focus on what it's best known at achieving and gained the public imagination - and that's space exploration.

The article points out how that doesn't have the focus it requires and the problem that creates.
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

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