NASA Podcasts

In Their Own Words: Brent Jett
05.08.12
 
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What is NASA's Commercial Crew Program?

Brent Jett/Commercial Crew Program Deputy Manager:
When I run into people sometimes in airports and they ask me what I'm working on I tell them I'm working on commercial crew and they are like, oh, we're going to commercialize our astronauts? And I have to explain, no, it's not about commercial crew, it's about a commercial transportation system to get NASA crew members to and from the International Space Station. We're doing it a little bit differently than a traditional NASA program because we're trying to develop systems that not only NASA can use to transport our astronauts to the ISS but to also, the commercial industry can use for other customers.

How does Commercial Crew differ from Shuttle?

Brent Jett/Commercial Crew Program Deputy Manager: We are investing with multiple companies, letting them know what our needs are for the ultimate services phase where they are providing transportation to ISS. But we're allowing them a little bit more flexibility to develop the systems. We're assisting them where we can. And, ultimately, we'll be approving and verifying the fact that their systems meet our safety and mission requirements. So, at the end it's not that much different but in the beginning it's quite different.

Why is it important to travel to the International Space Station?

Brent Jett/Commercial Crew Program Deputy Manager: I look at the investment that we've made on the space station program and that investment has been very significant in terms of if you go back to all the money that we've invested, the shuttle flights to assemble. And we're right at the point in space station where we're starting to reap the benefits, the scientific benefits of that investment. In order to maintain people on orbit, you need it to do that science. You need to be able to supply them with cargo. And you need to be able to swap them out periodically. Right now, as a partnership, we have one way to get humans up and down and that is the Soyuz, the Russian Soyuz system. So we are single string on getting people up and down. I think the real need is to have at least, you know, some redundancy in our capability to get people up and down to ISS and the Commercial Crew Program is going to provide the redundancy. So we will have both Soyuz and a U.S. system, at least one, that can do that.

Why commercialize transportation to low Earth orbit?

Brent Jett/Commercial Crew Program Deputy Manager: If we're going to be a species who robustly explores space, in order to do it cost effectively, there's got to be an economic incentive that comes along with it. So, NASA can stretch the frontier, but you know, the money that's required to do that is going to be difficult to sustain any type of exploration of that frontier and that's going to have to come from what I believe has to really drive from a commercial economic type of engine and I think the Commercial Crew Program and the commercial cargo program are really the first steps in trying to make that happen.

What does the future hold for human spaceflight?

Brent Jett/Commercial Crew Program Deputy Manager: My hope is that, you know, if the commercial spaceflight industry does flourish and other markets emerge for transportation to low Earth orbit, human transportation, that more and more individuals, more and more people will have the opportunity to fly in space. I know initially it will be very expensive and so that market will be very limited, but it is such an amazing experience that in my view a commercial industry that ultimately has other customers and other reasons to fly to low Earth orbit, I think it's really exciting. And I think, not just school kids, but I think Americans in general, get excited by that opportunity that someday, maybe not for them, but maybe their kids or their grandkids, even if they don't want to become an astronaut, might have the opportunity, you know, a professional astronaut, might have an opportunity to fly in space someday.

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