Keynote Speech by Dr. S. Pete Worden at AIAA Space 2006

Status Report From: Ames Research Center
Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Sep 19, 2006

INTRODUCTION I'm of course delighted to be here to provide an overview on NASA and our perspectives on the topics to be discussed this week. I'm also mindful that I am replacing the Washington leadership who are all traveling overseas – the successful Soyuz launch being one key event. To figure out why everyone was gone I did a web search – here in Silicon Valley I guess its OK to use a new verb "Googled," today, Sept 19. I discovered that this day is actually "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" – which I suspect they wanted to avoid. I first thought it might be a nice thing to "salt" my entire speech with lots or "Aaarghs" and "Shiver my timbers." But then I did some further research and found a high correlation in history between "talking like a pirate" and "hanging." So, I will stick to "landlubber" language.

True to my former military background I have three main points – I will tell you what I'm going to tell you. Then I will tell you and finally I will tell you what I've told you. Perhaps the pirate lingo would have been easier after all!

NASA has made a great deal of progress this past year. Recently the STS-115 mission successfully added to the International Space Station a new port-side solar array – hope that's not pirate talk. The panels will eventually double the electric power available, opening the way for more intensive scientific research on the Station.

But our most significant accomplishments have been getting the Vision for Space Exploration off and running. We are on our way to true human expansion into the solar system – beginning with the moon.

Next month we will observe the 49th anniversary of the first Earth-orbiting satellite. But as much as we can take pride in the accomplishments of the past five decades, the dawn of the true space age lies ahead of us. Sooner than we may think people will be able to look up, and with the aid of a telescope see the glimmering lights of a research station on the lunar surface. At about this time astronauts will be readying spaceships for humans' first voyages to Mars and Near-earth Asteroids. This second giant leap for mankind begins now. This step will benefit our nation and all humankind in unbelievable returns for security, discovery and prosperity. As President Bush said when announcing the Vision a little over two years ago, "Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn into unknown lands and across the open sea. We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives, and lifts our national spirit."

As a second topic I will focus on the theme of this conference – ensuring prosperity for humanity's future. The Vision for Space Exploration is specifically about economic opportunity. We are expanding into space to provide unlimited potential for our children – potential to solve Earth's most pressing problems in energy as well as to expand into the solar system. And with them will go the values we cherish such as freedom; tolerance and commercial enterprise. Many nations are on the move into space. In the next few years China, Russia, India, Europe, and Japan will all launch probes to the moon. They are doing this for the economic opportunity it holds for their peoples. Perhaps the most indicative of things to come is a student moon mission slated to be launched in 2010 by the University of Stuttgart. It is being financed by German industrial concerns and the State of Baden-Württemberg. The latter, I am told, is funding this endeavor since they believe the moon will be parceled out for industrial development in the years ahead and they want to make sure they get their share! So while the United States and NASA are leading an endeavor which will involve cooperation with many nations, it will also involve entrepreneurial collaboration and competition.

We are here in Silicon Valley for a reason, and this is my third theme today. I had been told that California would be the world's sixth largest economy if it was a separate nation. I was at a reception Friday night and Governor Arnold Swartznegger said there we were the 5th largest. I'm not going to quibble with someone who could kick my butt! Silicon Valley is the economic powerhouse behind this position and leads the world in entrepreneurial energy. Our job is to link this energy to the Vision for Space Exploration and I will tell you today of some really great progress.


Just a few weeks ago NASA announced our selection of Lockheed-Martin as the prime contractor for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle or "CEV." The CEV and the class of launch vehicles now being developed to carry it will be the basis for our spaceships to the Moon, Mars and Near Earth Asteroids.

The CEV will carry not only pioneering American astronauts but colleagues from other space-faring nations to the lunar station I mentioned in my introduction. Once there they will learn how to obtain useful resources such as oxygen from the lunar soil. This is the reason we are focusing initially on the moon. It's there – only three days journey from the earth that we will learn how to live off the land. This use of what's called "in situ resources" is the key to humanity's expansion throughout the solar system. Once we learn how to do this we can move out to Mars, Near-earth Asteroids and beyond.

NASA envisions international crews on the moon, working together on research stations of international design and construction, possibly in much the same fashion as occurs in Antarctica today. A great partnership of nations and entrepreneurs will be needed to develop crucial infrastructure such as lunar habitats, power stations, scientific laboratories and facilities, telescopes, manned and unmanned robotic surface rovers, logistics, communications and navigations systems, in-situ resource utilization and long-duration life support.

I'd like to note just a few of the technologies that we will need on the moon. The Vision will accelerate advances in robotics, autonomous and fault-tolerant systems, human-machine interfaces, materials, life support systems and novel applications of micro- and nano- devices to name a few. Indeed, these capabilities are leading us to a future where robots on the moon can largely construct other robots to further our expansion into the solar system. These technologies are the lynchpins of Silicon Valley prosperity and just as Project Apollo led to important advances in computing and electronics – the original spurs to Silicon Valley growth, these new technologies will carry this region and the nation into an expansive growth into the Solar System.

There have been some discussions on the relative role of science and exploration. As a scientist I find this distinction artificial. America's exploration efforts beginning by Lewis and Clark have always carried unbelievable scientific opportunities. As we embark on the Vision for Space Exploration the science opportunities are staggering. For example, those same infrastructure capabilities I noted above will enable astronomical telescopes tens of meters in diameter and radio telescopes spanning thousands of kilometers. There will be geological exploration of the moon that could finally establish the origins of both the earth-moon system and more broadly the solar system. The moon, lacking major geological movements for billions of years serves as a faithful witness plate to the events that formed and transformed the earth into what is today.


We are optimistic that the Vision will open the entire sphere of the inner solar system to commerce. It is also worth noting that the impressive new technologies and capabilities we will develop will benefit people on earth – including such possibilities as addressing our energy and global warming crises.

Quite likely our exploration efforts will be aided by commercial providers offering services for a few; with the right incentives this can be made to happen sooner rather than later. We want to get to the point that NASA is open to commercial offerings in preference to the development of government-only system, whenever possible.

I'd like to pause briefly and tell you how rewarding, as a NASA employee of only a few months, it is to be working for the current NASA leadership team. Mike Griffin and the leadership team he has put in place are like him – technically unequalled, plain spoken to the point of bluntness and people who mean what they say. And they really mean it when they say they are committed to private sector development of space.

Just a few weeks ago we awarded two Space Act agreements through our Commercial crew/cargo initiative or COTS to Space-X and RocketPlane Kistler to establish capabilities and services to safely and reliably support the International Space Station's cargo and crew transportation needs. This represents the first time ever that NASA is seeking non-government vehicles and commercial services to provide these capabilities for human space flight.

This is the first really big step in commercial and private support to space development. But like the famous GINSU knife commercial words of my youth – wait, there's more!


To help spur some of the necessary technology development NASA has initiated a partnership program to develop a capital venture project to support innovative, dual-use technologies that will help us achieve our ambitious mission affordably and better position these technologies for commercial use. The venture capital project is modeled after similar organizations that have supported the Defense Department and CIA in infusing innovative solutions that help meet their unique mission needs.

You will hear Thursday from Jacques Vallee of Red Planet Capital Inc., our partner in this venture. Red Planet Capital Inc. is a group that we're very confident will attract and motivate private sector innovators and investors who have not typically conducted business with NASA. This will tap more efficiently the pool of small, leading-edge organizations which are responsible for much of the innovative hi-tech thinking and research in the United States.

Red Capital will be working out of our NASA Research Park here at NASA Ames. This is rapidly becoming a world-class, shared-use, R&D and education campus for government, academia, non-profits and industry in support of NASA's mission. In just a few years the NASA Research Park has enabled over 50 companies and 14 universities to collaborate with NASA researchers and technologists on our mission requirements.

We are in the process of expanding the Research Park. We are in discussion and will soon finalize agreements with some of the biggest names in both Silicon Valley and the aerospace community. And to sweeten the deal we can now throw in access to the Moffett Field golf course and clubhouse. Since golf has already been played on the moon we think this too is an opportunity for entrepreneurial activity!


In concluding I'd like to return to the larger theme of why the Vision for Space Exploration is important to our country. We believe it can address the immediately pressing needs of human societies while, with a modest investment of our national resources continue to help fuel the growth of human creativity, innovation and technology development.

We're convinced that the approach we are taking at NASA can address the challenges presented by the exploration vision. We are setting the stage for a space program that will increase the opportunities we all share to advance scientific knowledge and expand humanity's exploration horizons.

We are also convinced that our approach will be truly sustainable by harnessing the capabilities the private sector offers. The unlimited opportunities, coupled with NASA's commitment to use the private sector whenever possible, such as in our COTS program will result in an affordable and sustained expansion into the solar system.

To those of you here in Silicon Valley NASA's private sector open door will mean new opportunities. Initiatives such as the Red Planet Capital Fund will develop the new technologies we will need to sustain our expansion into the solar system. And it will bring new players into the space field.

It is now our obligation to seize this opportunity to explore world beyond our own. We will shape the destiny of our planet and humanity as a whole for centuries to come. The human imperative to explore and expand will surely be satisfied, by others if not by us. This is our destiny, and we must lead the way!

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