Well, good evening. First let me start off by saying that there will only be
one Wernher von Braun. [applause]
Thank you all for attending this event. This is just a fantastic opportunity.
You know, we were all talking about our ages and where we were. I was five
years old on the last Apollo launch, but I remember it, and I remember sitting
in front of the TV, and it stuck in my memory, and I decided then and there
that this is the business that I wanted to be in. I am truly humbled to be
here among such "greats" in this room. As the men and women, and the
scientists and the engineers that made the Saturn and Apollo program a reality,
and the "greats" such as Walt Cunningham, Owen Garriott, Dr. Mueller, and Jim
Halsell. Let's give them all a round of applause. [applause]
There's no doubt that a lot has changed in the 39 years since Col. Cunningham
flew on the Saturn IB. You know, a lot of people forget about the Saturn IB.
The Saturn IB was a great machine. It preceded the Saturn V, and it took many
crews safely to orbit, including the crews for Skylab.
In that 39 years since that first flight of Apollo 7, and then in the many years
since Apollo 17 -- when astronauts Schmitt and Cernan became the last Americans
on the moon -- many things are different, but many things are the same as well.
What I'd like to do tonight is compare some of those things that are the same
and some of those things that are different, and talk about how we're going
forward. Because today we've got a new, exciting vision.
We're heading back to the moon. We're going to stay there, and then we're
going to move beyond. And the Rocket City is once again the Rocket City!
We're building the Ares launch vehicles right here. For the first time in over
40 years, we will have stages coming out of facilities here at Marshall Space
Flight Center. We will be testing full-scale stages here, structurally and
propulsion-wise and then we will be producing those at the Michoud Assembly Facility, much like we
did back in the Apollo era.
What you see behind me [artist's renditions] is what we're in the process of
building today with the Ares I and the Ares V. So, let's first start off with
some of the similarities.
Well, first off, let's talk about the goal. We have a very ambitious goal
involved. The goal there was to send humans to the moon and return them
safely. Well, the goal that we have today in the Constellation Program is to
build a permanent base on the moon and then to send humans to Mars, asteroids,
and to other destinations and beyond.
We also had constraints in Apollo; the constraint there was time. We were in a
race. We were in a race with the Soviet Union, and the goal there was to get
it done within the decade. Now, however, we have both money and time. We have
to accomplish this within the existing NASA budget. We are not receiving
additional money to do this; we are re-prioritizing within the resources that
we have. We have to complete the mission we have, along with completing the
space station, retiring the space shuttle in 2010, and continuing to conduct
world-class science on the International Space Station.
In addition, with the time restraint, we need to shrink the gap that we'll have
between the completion of the space shuttle and bringing Ares and Orion on line
to as small as possible, because we will have, unfortunately, a gap in human
spaceflight once again, like we did between the end of Apollo and the beginning
of the space shuttle program. We are in a race, in a sense, to keep that gap
as short as we can.
In terms of location, Marshall Space Flight Center once again plays a very key
role in designing, and maintaining, and managing the launch vehicles that will
lift astronauts into space. But the key difference between this and the space
shuttle program is Marshall Space Flight Center is hands-on once again! We are
taking a page out of the Apollo/Saturn playbook. Folks are hands-on in this
town, we are building hardware, and, as I said, we'll be testing hardware out
here, and you saw some of the folks when the people stood up who are working on
this now. You'll see more and more exciting news coming out about the progress
that we're making on the Ares launch vehicles over the next couple of years.
From a workforce standpoint, Apollo obviously had a very, very highly-committed
workforce. The fact that so many here from the Apollo era are here tonight, so
many years after the program, shows that commitment. Clearly, today, we have
another highly-dedicated workforce as well.
Of course, now, there are differences as well, so let's talk about some of
In Apollo, in a sense, folks were doing this for the first time. We had never
built a human spaceflight system to take humans to orbit and on to another
planetary body. Today, we are standing on the shoulders of giants such as
yourself, such as those all around the country, that we are building off of
today. That gives us many great things to go from. As many of the vets have
told us, "We wrote the books; we had to write the books." Now we need to
learn from those books and then come along and go beyond.
In terms of population -- now this is an interesting statistic. As many of you
know, in 1960, Alabama's population was 3.2 million and Huntsville's population
was 72,000. Well, today Alabama has grown to 4.6 million and Huntsville has --
this is only the city; clearly, the area has grown more than this -- doubled to
160,000 and is poised, obviously, to grow even further.
Let's talk about budget. As I mentioned, in Apollo, we threw all the money we
could at the problem because our goal was to beat the Soviet Union. We were in
a race, as Col. Cunningham has previously mentioned, and Dr. Mueller, that was
our goal. We were spending four percent of the national budget then, and that
was a $134 billion budget in today's dollars. Today, we are spending 0.5
percent -- 0.5 percent -- one eighth of the federal budget that we were
spending then, of a $2.7 trillion budget. Now, if you think that's not enough,
let me hear you. [chuckles & applause]
Number of people working on the project: As we've already talked about, there
were 400,000 people involved in Apollo. I can't fathom that many; it is a huge
number. Today, here in the Rocket City, we are up to 1,000 people working on
the project. We just started 18 months ago. We're up to 1,000 people now and
are growing very rapidly. Nationwide, we're at 4,000. So we're on our way.
I don't think we'll ever reach 400,000 people, but that's an interesting
comparison to be done.