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Aerospace and Defense

Brooks questions NASA experts with conflicting views on best way to return to the moon

Brandon Moseley



Wednesday, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) questioned NASA experts on their starkly different views on how to best return to the Moon during a House Space Subcommittee hearing.

Former NASA Associate Administrator Doug Cooke advocated replicating the simpler “Apollo” approach. Current NASA Associate Administrator Kenneth Bowersox defended a more complex, multi-faceted “Artemis” approach. Cooke estimated that NASA’s current “Artemis” approach has a 49 percent mission failure risk versus an “Apollo” approach mission failure risk of 20 percent.

“Alright, let me quote from it in three different places. Quote, “Apparently under pressure from commercial launch providers who need additional launches to fill their manifests NASA is being directed to break the lunar lander into multiple pieces so that these can fit on less powerful commercial launchers increasing risk and constraining the architecture.” Brooks read. “Second quote, “NASA’s current approach requires 8 new developments— interjection by me, versus 3 with Apollo, 8 to 3— resuming the quote, 8 launches versus 1 with Apollo and approximately 17 mission critical operations versus 7 with Apollo to achieve the Artemis goals by 2024.” End quote. And then finally quote, “If you assume each event has a 98% probability of success the likelihood of mission success is 80% for this Apollo-like approach. In comparison, the likelihood of mission success for NASA’s current approach is 51%, not taking into account the launch vehicle maturity risk. NASA can significantly increase speed, simplicity, cost, and probability of mission success by deferring gateway, leveraging SLS, and reducing critical mission operations.” End quote.”

“Now, if I were an astronaut, I would be concerned about these kinds of comments from a former NASA associate administrator,” Brooks said. “And, they appear to suggest that profit motive (i.e. the desire of some individuals for personal gain) may be driving NASA decision making at much greater risk to our astronauts. So, I would like to have Mr. Cook, if you would, expound on that leaving enough time for Mr. Bowersox to reply.”

“I think that the pressure to get to commercial capabilities and drive that objective is causing us to do things that are higher risk and going to this many developments, from scratch by the way, starting now trying to get to 2024 with that many critical mission events the probabilities are that,” Cooke replied. “And, if you assume .98, .98 is arbitrary, and some of the numbers would be higher and some would be lower, but it is illustrative of the complexity that’s been bought into versus what could be done with a more simple approach.”

“First, nobody is driving us,” Bowersox said. “We actually came to these conclusions on our own and a big driver is to have flexibility. We want to have multiple options. We don’t want to rely just on one system. We would like to have other systems. And, what we are trying to build on is some of the success we have experienced in having flexibility with our commercial cargo vehicles for station. Having multiple providers, multiple options there has been really useful. When one has a problem we can go to the other provider and so we want to take advantage of some of that learning and move it into this other program to help us get to the moon and on to Mars.”
“Well, if I could interject for a moment, do you concur with Mr. Cooke’s belief that the Apollo method of going to the Moon was simpler and safer versus the current Artemis approach of going to the Moon?” Brooks asked.

“What I would say about the Apollo approach is that it was simpler,” Bowersox answered. “I would not say it was necessarily safer. We will know that after we are done. But, I think that our current approach has a lot of potential to be actually safer than Apollo. Because of the flexibility and complexity we can actually increase some of the safety aspects.”

Brooks asked, “Mr. Cooke, in the time I have remaining do you have any additional comments you would like to give on this subject?”


“Just that it gets back to probabilities in the end and critical events, critical launches, and it is the more you have the higher the risk.” Cooke responded. “We did succeed with Space Station which was about 40 Shuttle launches to build. Had we lost a payload during that time we didn’t have backups. We didn’t have the margin and budget to have backup hardware. So, if we had lost one of those payloads we would have been scrambling. So, it is better to keep it simple. It is hard enough as it is. If you watch the documentaries from Apollo 11 and saw the team in the control room, who I grew up under at Johnson’s Space Center, you saw their anticipation. Every burn, every docking, every possible critical operation; you saw their anxiety leading up to that point and the relief when it was done. So, the fear that you have like that the better you are I think and less risk.”

Artemis is NASA’s program to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024, including the first woman to walk on the moon. When they land, our American astronauts will be the first humans ever before to visit the Moon’s South Pole.

NASA is working with U.S. companies, including some with a presence in North Alabama, as well as our international partners. NASA is vowing to push the boundaries of human exploration forward to the Moon. As a result of Artemis, NASA will be able to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 to uncover new scientific discoveries and demonstrate new technological advancements, that will lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.

President Donald J. Trump (R) has renewed the nation’s focus on expanding humanity’s presence beyond planet Earth. Space Policy Directive-1 provides the direction for NASA to organize more effectively government, commercial and international efforts to develop a permanent presence off Earth that generates new markets and opportunities, both scientific and economic.

NASA’s ultimate goal is to send humans to Mars, and NASA says that Artemis is the first step to begin this next era of exploration.

NASA is working on going quickly and sustainably with a reusable architecture as much as possible. NASA is going with our corporate and international partners to explore faster and explore more together. The moon project will be used to prove out the technologies that will take us to Mars and beyond.

The SLS will take NASA into space and Orion will take our astronauts to deep space to usher in a new era of space exploration. Orion will take us farther than anyone has gone before, and will dock with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft will carry up to four crew members and is designed to support astronauts traveling hundreds of thousands of miles from home, where getting back to Earth takes days rather than hours.

The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway is a lunar-orbit space station, which will serve as a solar-powered communications hub, science laboratory, short-term habitation module, and holding area for rovers and other robots. The power and propulsion element is a high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion spacecraft that is three times more powerful than current capabilities. As a mobile command and service module, the Gateway provides a communications relay for human and robotic expeditions to the lunar surface, starting at the Moon’s South Pole.

Both the distance and duration demand that Orion have systems that can reliably operate far from home, be capable of keeping astronauts alive in case of emergencies and still be light enough that the SLS can launch it.

NASA will launch Orion on the Space Launch System, from a modernized spaceport at Kennedy Space Center. On the first integrated mission, known as Exploration Mission-1, an un-crewed Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about three weeks. A series of increasingly challenging missions with crew will follow including a test flight around the Moon before operational missions to the Gateway.

“President Trump and the leadership he has surrounded himself with believe that we [the United States] can marshal our resources properly and lead in space again,” Economic Developer Dr. Nicole Jones explained. “Part of that strategy includes public-private partnerships; federal resources (NASA) can focus on exploring the frontier, and the commercial sector can focus on supplying space.”

Thousands of Alabama workers at both Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center and NASA’s corporate partners with facilities in North Alabama are working on the Artemis project. Engineers at Marshall are doing the lead engineering work on both the SLS and the Artemis moon lander.

Mo Brooks is serving in his fifth term representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District.


Aerospace and Defense

Blue Origin opens rocket engine factory in Huntsville

Brandon Moseley



Blue Origin has opened its sprawling factory in Huntsville, Alabama’s “Rocket City.”

The massive new factory will allow the spaceflight company to accelerate the production of its heavy-lift BE-4 rocket engine. The move creates hundreds of jobs.

The BE-4, which is under development, will power both Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket and the United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket, which is being produced at ULA’s factory in nearby Decatur.

Huntsville was an ideal location for the new factory, not only for its highly skilled workforce; but also for its proximity to ULA’s assembly pant and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center where the new Alabama-built engine will be tested. Marshall’s historic test stand 4670 is where the Saturn V moon rocket’s engines were tested.

Blue Origin is upgrading and refurbishing the test stand.

“This community is absolutely terrific to be a part of,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said. “It has the kind of spirit that you want when developing this kind of technology and actually has the history that you can be feel proud about.”

“Enjoyed speaking at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Blue Origin’s new rocket engine production facility in Cummings Research Park,” Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, said. “This top-notch facility will be used to conduct production of the BE-4 and BE-3U engines. These engines will undergo testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on the historic Test Stand 4670. I joined Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith, Congressman Robert Aderholt, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and several others this afternoon to discuss the impact Blue Origin is making in the Tennessee Valley!”


Alabama Commerce Sec. Greg Canfield was at the ceremony making the opening of the spaceflight company’s rocket engine factory.

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “In addition to the economic boost resulting from hundreds of new jobs in north Alabama, the Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine production facility will allow the United States – the state of Alabama – to take astronauts once again into space without dependence on other nations. Methods of warfare have changed, and maintaining our dominance in the current space race is therefore a critical element in national security.”

Blue Origin was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin’s 350,000-square-foot facility is located in Cummings Research Park and will employ more than 300 people. Smith said that around 200 jobs should be created over the next year.

The factory was a $200 million investment in the state and announced on June 2017, with construction beginning in Huntsville a little over a year ago.


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Aerospace and Defense

Jones criticized for voting to limit Trump’s war powers authority

Brandon Moseley



Thursday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) voted in favor of S.J.Res.68, a resolution which directs the removal of United States military from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress. Jones has been criticized by Republicans for voting to limit President Donald J. Trump’s war powers on Iran.

“Before a President can lead us into war, he or she must first earn the support of the American people and also fulfill their solemn constitutional obligation to seek approval from Congress,” Sen. Jones said in a statement. “While the President has the power to protect Americans in the case of an imminent attack, that authority does not extend to committing our service members to long-term hostilities unilaterally. This resolution sends a strong message that we will follow the Constitution and we will not send our troops into harm’s way without the serious consideration and consent of the Congress.”

Trump Victory National Finance Committee member Perry O. Hooper Jr. released a statement in response.

“Senator Jones once again turned his back on Alabama and voted as the leftwing Democrats commanded. He has no regard for the values, opinions or views of Alabamians,” Hooper said. “He sees us as deplorables just like the elites of the Democratic party who have funded 80 percent of his doomed campaign for re-election.:

Hooper stated, “I whole heartily support the President who stated ‘We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness… If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal. The Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party.’”

“The Commander-in-chief must be free to work with his staff and his military leaders to conduct covert operations like the one that eliminated Iran’s terrorist-in-chief General Soleimani,” Hooper added. “You can’t micromanage the war on terrorism. The Democrats in Congress are so filled with Trump Derangement Syndrome that no matter how much it would benefit our country and the world; they would never give Trump a “victory”. If it came down to it, they would leak everything to the media no matter what the consequences.”

Senator Jones is a cosponsor of the legislation and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Eight moderate Republicans voted with the Democrats on the resolution.

Senator Jones has also been criticized by Republicans for his comments that he was “appalled” by Pres. Trump’s actions following his acquittal on both Articles of Impeachment.


“Newsflash for Senator Doug Jones: Most Alabamians have been appalled by his actions his entire time in office,” former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “It’s about time we send Doug home, and replace him with someone who understands our values. Alabamians deserve a Senator they can be proud of again.”

Sessions is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Jones’ Senate seat.

The Republican primary will be on March 3.

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Aerospace and Defense

Brooks announces that Alabama rocket launches NASA Solar Orbiter

Brandon Moseley



Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, announced that an Alabama built Atlas V rocket has launched the Solar Orbiter.

“Big news! Last night, NASA’s Solar Orbiter was successfully launched atop United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket,” Rep. Brooks said. “The Atlas V is built at ULA’s Decatur manufacturing facility and last night’s launch was ULA’s 135th consecutive successful mission. This mission jumpstarted a decade-long expedition to study the sun that will deliver never-before-seen views of the sun and provide new information on space weather. Congratulations to NASA and ULA on a successful start to an important mission.”

The Solar Orbiter is a new collaborative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA to study the Sun. It was launched at 10:03 p.m. CST Sunday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Mission controllers at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany have received a signal from the spacecraft indicating that its solar panels had successfully deployed.

In the first two days after launch, Solar Orbiter will deploy its instrument boom and several antennas that will communicate with Earth and gather scientific data. Solar Orbiter is on a unique trajectory that will allow its comprehensive set of instruments to provide humanity with the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles. This trajectory includes 22 close approaches to the Sun, bringing the spacecraft within the orbit of Mercury to study the Sun and its influence on space.

“As humans, we have always been familiar with the importance of the Sun to life on Earth, observing it and investigating how it works in detail, but we have also long known it has the potential to disrupt everyday life should we be in the firing line of a powerful solar storm,” said ESA Science Director Günther Hasinger. “By the end of our Solar Orbiter mission, we will know more about the hidden force responsible for the Sun’s changing behavior and its influence on our home planet than ever before.”

Solar Orbiter combines two main modes of study. In-situ instruments will measure the environment around the spacecraft, detecting such things as electric and magnetic fields and passing particles and waves. The remote-sensing instruments will image the Sun from afar, along with its atmosphere and its outflow of material, collecting data that will help scientists understand the Sun’s inner workings.

“Solar Orbiter is going to do amazing things. Combined with the other recently launched NASA missions to study the Sun, we are gaining unprecedented new knowledge about our star,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen. “Together with our European partners, we’re entering a new era of heliophysics that will transform the study of the Sun and help make astronauts safer as they travel on Artemis program missions to the Moon.”


Congressman Mo Brooks is serving in his Fifth term representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Brooks is an outspoken proponent of the space program. NASA and its contractors, including ULA, are major employers in North Alabama.

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Aerospace and Defense

Brooks votes for NASA Authorization Act

Brandon Moseley



Wednesday, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) voted in favor of the Space Subcommittee passage of H.R. 5666, the “National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2020.”

The act includes an amendment authored by Brooks to ensure competition and flexibility for NASA’s choosing an integrated crewed Mars landing/assent system design.

“I thank my Space Subcommittee colleagues who supported my amendment to the NASA reauthorization that ensures competition and flexibility for NASA in choosing an integrated crewed Mars landing/assent system design,” Brooks explained. “The policy experts at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center analyzed the text of the bill and determined more than two designs would be best. I’m glad this win for Marshall passed and is included in the bill as it heads to full committee debate.”

Brooks is the number two in seniority Republican on the Space Subcommittee.

“NASA needs direction and support from Congress to achieve mission success,” Brooks said. “I’m pleased the Space Subcommittee today took an important step toward providing that direction and support by passing a bipartisan NASA reauthorization bill. This is not a perfect bill. There are good and bad parts. Nonetheless, I supported the bill with my vote today and look forward to improving this bill throughout the legislative process.”

“This NASA reauthorization bill enhances America’s space exploration programs by: embracing the Artemis Moon and Mars exploration program while setting a 2033 date for human orbit of Mars; strengthening the Space Launch System program, much of which is done at the Tennessee Valley’s Marshall Space Flight Center; recognizing the importance of heliophysics research to understanding space weather; continuing NASA’s thermonuclear propulsion development; and, commissioning an interagency assessment of China’s space exploration capabilities and threats posed by China to America’s space assets.”

Brooks amendment reads, “to the extent funding permits, the administrator shall maintain two competing integrated crewed Mars landing assent system design concepts through the critical design review milestone at which point the administrator shall make a selection of the system to be utilized in the first human Mars landing mission.”

“I believe that it is probably best to allow the administrator to have two or more and as such this amendment adds the phrasing “at least” in front of the word “two”, Brooks said. “I believe in competition, I believe in the diversity of ideas, and the more ideas, quite frankly that are presented to the administrator, the better the chance that we have a good one that will work.”


The bill passed the subcommittee by voice vote.

H.R. 5666 will next be marked-up by the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee before proceeding to House Floor consideration.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is in Huntsville. NASA and its contractors are major employers in the Fifth Congressional District. The Space Launch System will carry Artemis to the moon and on to Mars.

Mo Brooks is in his fifth term representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Brooks is number two in seniority amongst Space Subcommittee Republicans.

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