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Norman Augustine on Human Spaceflight--and What Comes Next

A conversation with the head of the U.S. human spaceflight review committee centers around time, money, money, and money

5 min read

U.S. human spaceflight hangs on a limb. The Augustine Commission, charged with presenting the Obama administration with several options for continuing to send people into space, has delivered its report. Congressional hearings are ongoing. The president is busy with war, health care, climate change, and the economy. So what about space?

Norman Augustine, the former Lockheed Martin chairman and CEO who headed the 10-person review commission this summer, spoke on 11 December alongside other experts on a panel at MIT that examined the implications of his committee’s report.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.


For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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