NEW ORLEANS (AP) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine expressed full support Monday for President Donald Trump’s proposed military “Space Force” but added that it will have a role separate from NASA.
Bridenstine said in New Orleans that NASA’s responsibilities involve science, space exploration and technology development. As for defense and national security, he told reporters in New Orleans: “We want to be an agency that maintains its independence from those capabilities.”
Bridenstine was touring the Michoud Assembly Center, where workers are putting together major parts of systems that are planned to return Americans to the moon and, eventually, take them to Mars. In a towering building, Boeing workers are building parts of the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket known as the Space Launch System. Lockheed Martin workers are building the spacecraft called Orion.
Bridenstine, a former Republican congressman, was nominated by Trump to head NASA last year and confirmed by the Senate in April.
He touched on the work at Michoud and other NASA concerns while standing next to a massive liquid hydrogen tank — a test version of one that eventually will be part of the SLS rocket.
Bridenstine was among the officials with Trump in June when he called for creation of a new military branch known as the Space Force. He said it’s needed because the nation’s space assets — including satellite technology and global positioning systems — are vital to numerous interests and industries, including communications, navigation, food and energy production, banking and climate.
“If we lose GPS, we lose banking in the United States of America. There’s no milk in the grocery store in a matter of three days,” he said.
The space force plan requires congressional approval. Military leaders and experts have questioned the wisdom of launching an expensive, bureaucratic new service branch.
JAMES WEBB SPACE TELECOPE
Bridenstine spoke enthusiastically about the much-delayed James Webb Space Telescope, what is now a nearly $10 billion project. That next-generation technology is envisioned as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, despite an announcement in June — for the third time in less than a year — of a lengthy postponement.