ISDC 2009 update: George Nield of FAA AST opens up Commercial Space Day

Hey space fans, Ian Murphy reporting again from ISDC 2009 through the NSS blog.

First off, sorry for not getting this out sooner.  I was shooting for 2:30 but I forgot there was a meeting of the NSS public affairs committee at 2pm and once I get talking the hours just seep away.

George Schellenger of Newsy.com and SpaceTaskForce got everyone pumped up with his energetic opening video featuring a visual barrage of the various commercial space efforts.

Brett Alexander, President, Personal Spaceflight Federation was the moderator for the morning sessions.

George Nield, Associate Administrator for the FAA office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) was the first speaker.  His speech was laden with a big picture positive and philosophical outlook on the state of the industry in light of all the recent controversy and absence of a clear direction that has been the norm in the headlines recently.

Confident in the industry’s progression to date, Nield started off saying that with respect to the achievements of NASA “commercial space achievements will the way and wave of the future.”

He reminded us that 50 years ago today the United States launched two passengers on the Jupiter missile. 1) a rhesus monkey named Able and the other a squirrel monkey named Baker.  He also reminded us of another historical event, the commemoration of the Golden Gate Bridge, which was celebrated by a flyover of 500 planes and the launching of 100 sky rockets.  Nield made a point to note “we used to celebrate the opening of bridges with rocket launches and now rockets have become the bridges themselves.”

His entire speech seemed to be aimed at combating the “sullen weight that has settled on the American Space Program.” He reference the “unusually pessimistic tone” symbolic of conversations centered around the retirement of the Shuttle, the supposed plateau of progress in the commercial space arena, the frustration over ITAR and the relative success of international aerospace ventures.  He wondered aloud “Have we lost our edge?”

He encouraged us all to point out to the unconvinced (by that he means everyone referenced in the above paragraph) to “not confuse the occasional bad day for the end of days,” for these people suffer from what he referenced as the Eeyor Effect (http://sheishei.blogspot.com/2005/09/eeyore-effect.html).  We must maintain, “humans are possessed with an infinite plasticity” to accomplish the difficult and almost anything, especially private spaceflight, is a humanitarian imperative.

He joked that the arbitrary deadlines placed upon the industry by the general public and media must have been created on “National Wishful Thinking Day” pointing out that Sir Richard Branson, when asked about how many tests it will take to get to his first passenger flight, responded, “We will do more tests that NASA has flown missions.”

The moral of the FAA AST leader’s speech “The pace is being set by safety.

The way I see it I can’t wait to go to space but I’m not in a hurry if I am not absolutely positive that I’m coming back to earth.

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