From deep space exploration to continuing to push forward through the pandemic, NASA executives and other industry experts discussed a wide range of topics at the Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium.
An ongoing team effort was the central message of the 14th annual event, which concluded Oct. 14 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The symposium returned to an in-person format and was also available virtually. The American Astronautical Society hosted the three-day conference.
“It has been such a trying time, but I’m so very proud of our Marshall Space Flight Center team for delivering on our mission despite all the obstacles – from storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes, to COVID and everything,” Marshall Director Jody Singer said. “I just am amazed every day at the dedication of our folks. It’s just not the civil servants at Marshall, but it’s everybody in this community working together to make it happen.”
The theme for the symposium was, “United: A Foundation Delivered, the Future Enabled.” Singer said the title was appropriate as NASA embarks on the next generation of deep space exploration through the Artemis program and the Space Launch System.
“To me, that is such a true thing, thinking about laying our foundation for the future, whether it be in education or business,” Singer said. “What we’re doing to pay it forward really does make a difference in enabling our future and to what we’re now working on at NASA and what we’re working on together.
Singer said in building on NASA’s legacy, new chapters are being written through the combination of the agency and its industry partners.
“One of the things I’m very proud of is the Space Launch System is being integrated and stacked and preparing for its first Artemis I mission in the very near future,” she said. “Every single piece of the SLS hardware has been stacked
“We’ve been doing some major tests that were key milestones. That shows the teamwork that happens. It takes a cross-center effort, cross-agency effort to make this happen. It is just amazing. By delivering the SLS, we’re putting a foundation in place for future human space exploration.”
Singer closed her opening remarks saying this is an exciting time for NASA “as we embark on the next generation of space exploration.”
“We’re in the Rocket City and we need this community more than ever before as we take the next giant leap in sending astronauts to not only the Moon, but beyond,” Singer said.
Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, presented the opening keynote address. Reuter highlighted work underway to develop transformative technologies to enable new missions and discoveries for human exploration and commercial space.
Reuter said more than 1,400 technology projects are in development, with 500 active university partnerships. He said 150 of the projects are targeted for flight demonstration.
“The strength of what we have is the breadth of what we do,” Reuter said. He said the Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative was created to engage the entire space community with NASA activities.
“This is the time to go forward and a key part of what we do is enabling partnerships,” Reuter said. “A big part of our mission is to inspire the next generation.”
Jim Free and Kathy Lueders, associate administrators for NASA’s two new directorates, also spoke at the conference, discussing the teamwork involved in making human space exploration possible.
“It’s all about mission, teamwork and leadership,” Free, associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, said. “There is something about being in this business. There are these special moments that we contribute to in space.”
NASA Associate Administrator Robert Cabana closed the symposium with his keynote Oct. 14. He said the right team is in place to make everything happen.
“Not just from a NASA leadership point of view, but across our space program, industry and government,” Cabana said. “Now really is our time. It’s an exciting time because there is so much ahead in space exploration.”
Other session topics included SLS, Artemis, science and exploration, developments in space nuclear propulsion, policy and regulation, and funding space commerce. One session featured leadership perspectives from directors at five NASA centers.
“I love what I do, and all of our team members have a passion for what we are doing,” Singer said. “We all rely on each other. All the things that we work on hand in hand is just amazing. “No matter if you’re working for NASA or one of our partners, it’s just a career that’s literally out of this world.”
Editor’s note: Wayne Smith, a Media Fusion employee, supports Marshall’s Office of Strategic Analysis & Communications.