In the fourth of a series of virtual
general membership meetings which was held on May 7, 2020, the Bay Area Houston
Economic Partnership featured Mark Geyer, director, NASA Johnson Space Center.
BAHEP President Bob Mitchell kicked-off the meeting by introducing Robert
McAfoos, president of Barrios Technology and the 2020 BAHEP board chair, who
then introduced Geyer, the 12th center director of NASA JSC. McAfoos
said that NASA and JSC are making great strides toward exploration. Having
worked with Geyer over a number of years, McAfoos stated he knows first-hand that
"Mark is the right leader for JSC during this time.”
Geyer began his comments by expressing
appreciation to the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and BAHEP President
Bob Mitchell for the work that has been done for the region and specifically
for NASA JSC. He said, "Bob is a tireless proponent of human space flight and
of what JCS does. I always appreciate his wisdom and his insight.”
Geyer explained that he would give an
overview of JSC in regard to where it stands today, the launches that are
coming up, the plan to return to the Moon, and where the center is in regard to
Playing on astronaut Neil Armstrong’s words
as he stepped onto the moon on July 20, 1969, Geyer’s presentation was titled Giant Leaps Start Here. He reported that
about 10,000 people compose JSC’s workforce. Of the 10,000, a little less than 3,000
are civil servants, and the remaining are contractors. There is also a facility
at White Sands, NM, which is a satellite of JSC.
Five areas define JSC’s scope of work
explained that there are five areas that define Johnson’s scope of work that
are unique to NASA and to the world. They are: Revolutionize the Human
Experience in Space, Explore New Destinations Now, Propel the Space Economy,
Create Game Changers, and Lead Globally. These are the areas on which JSC will
focus going forward.
Speaking of the center’s mission, he said
that the International Space Station has been inhabited for 20 continuous
years. Science experiments are conducted on the ISS 24/7/365. A number of Extra-Vehicular
Activities are conducted each year for science and maintenance. EVA 58 on Oct.
18, 2019, was unique in that it marked the first all-female spacewalk by NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir.
Looking to the future, Geyer shared, "The
ISS is not only where we are doing incredible research, it’s also where we are
propelling the space economy.” He explained that the space station currently buys
its cargo delivery services from two companies – SpaceX and Northrop Grumman.
NASA also has a contract with Sierra Nevada to provide cargo in the future.
NASA has procured the services from these companies rather than owning the
design itself. This has allowed the companies to create capabilities that they
can also sell to other people.
Geyer added that NASA is about to embark on
having American as well as international crews delivered to the space station
using the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Boeing Starliner. The targeted date for
the first launch on the SpaceX Crew Dragon is May 27, 2020. NASA astronauts Bob
Behknen and Doug Hurley will be
the first to fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during the Demo-2 mission. It
will be the first launch of Americans on U.S. soil since 2011 which was the
last Shuttle flight.
NASA sets 2024 as goal in returning to Moon
a return to the moon, Geyer then spoke of Space Policy Directive 1 which states
in part, "Lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with
commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the
solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.” He
said that a key piece of that statement is sustainability. Although it’s an
exciting mission, it also has to fit in the tight budget that NASA is given.
The questionability of returning to the Moon
rather than going directly to Mars has been discussed. Geyer gave a number of
reasons for the endeavor including:
Proves technologies and capabilities for
sending humans to Mars
Establishes American leadership and strategic
Inspires a new generation and encourages
careers in STEM
Leads civilization changing science and
Expands the U.S. global economic impact
Broadens U.S. industry and international
partnerships in deep space
The Artemis Program is the name of NASA’s
program to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. Artemis astronauts
will land at the Moon’s South Pole. Delivery of small science and technology
payloads including rovers will precede the arrival of the astronauts in order
to explore and provide critical information about the region. JSC is leading an
effort to procure lunar landing services. A contract has been awarded for the
first payload to be delivered to the Moon’s surface in 2022.
Orion and SLS are one-of-a-kind
to Geyer, currently Orion is the only spacecraft capable of carrying and
sustaining crew on missions to deep space, providing emergency abort
capability, and safe re-entry from lunar return velocities. NASA’s Space launch
System (SLS) is the only rocket with the power and capability required to carry
astronauts to deep space onboard the Orion spacecraft. The SLS and Orion
programs, along with Exploration Ground Systems support at Kennedy Space
Center, leverage over 3,800 suppliers and over 60,000 workers across all 50
Although Orion will take the astronauts to
orbit around the Moon, a new lunar lander will be necessary to take them from
orbit to the surface. Three commercial companies have been awarded contracts to
develop landers. They are National Team, which is comprised of Blue Origin,
Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, and other major suppliers; Dynetics; and SpaceX.
The lander program is run out of Marshall Spaceflight Center, but JSC will have
nearly 100 people participating in the program in some key leadership roles.
Phase II of the Artemis
program is about sustainability. Geyer spoke of the lunar Gateway which is
managed by JSC. The Gateway will be an orbital
platform with living quarters, laboratories for science and research, docking
ports for visiting spacecraft, and more. It will provide NASA and its partners
access to more of the lunar surface than ever before, supporting both human and
robotic missions. It will serve as a Mars mission dress rehearsal providing
longer in-space and surface durations. Geyer reported that elements of the
Gateway are already in production and will launch in 2023.
Addressing COVID-19, Geyer said that JSC is open,
because it has work that has to happen 24 hours a day. About 10 percent of the
workforce has to be on-site. The remainder of the workforce can telework. The
center is in the process of determining how it can increase the on-site
presence using three different data points. Geyer said that offices and
conference rooms are going to be a challenge taking social distancing into
that it is going to take a while to get the center back to where it was before
the pandemic. Geyer also commented that
perhaps it isn’t necessary to be entirely where they were before, because they
are learning how to do a lot of things remotely that they didn’t think they
could do previously.
out the meeting by saying that he agreed with McAfoos in his statement that
Geyer is the right leader at the right time. "I’ve really enjoyed working with
Mark. I’ve worked with a number of center directors over the years, and Mark is
(The video of the meeting is shown below. To view it on full screen, click on the white headline.)