Kay Bailey Hutchison, retired long time U. S. Senator from Texas who helped to shape and fund NASA’s future over nearly two decades as a Washington legislator, was honored Friday as the 2013 recipient of the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement and the National Space Trophy in Houston on Friday.
The award was presented at a dinner banquet in her honor by Eugene Cernan, the commander of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission, and Tom Stafford, a long time NASA adviser and commander of the Apollo Soyuz Test Project and Apollo 10 mission.
Over her nearly two decades in Washington, Hutchison served on key Senate authorization and appropriations panels with jurisdiction over the space agency. Her efforts helped to establish the U. S. segment of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory, opening the orbital outpost to researchers from academia, the commercial sector and other federal agencies.
The Republican lawmaker collaborated with U. S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, to win bi-partisan backing for the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. The legislation set the agency on a course to replace the space shuttle’s orbital crew and payload delivery capabilities with new commercially operated launch services, while freeing NASA to develop the Space Launch System, Orion crew vehicle and associated ground launch capabilities to launch U. S. astronauts on future missions of deep space exploration.
NASA’s shuttle fleet was retired in mid-2011 following 30 years of operation. The retirement left the launching of astronauts assigned to live and work on the space station to Russia.
In brief remarks, the former lawmaker expressed frustration at the growing “gap” inU. S.launch capabilities, a circumstance she said should not be permitted to happen again.
“We will assure thatAmericais never second in space,” vowed Hutchison, the space trophy’s 27th recipient.
In brief remarks, she urged a strong showing fromHouston’s aerospace space community and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden not to let divisive battles inWashingtonover the budget and deficit reduction unfold at the expense of the nation’s long range human space aspirations.
Currently, NASA hopes to foster twoU. S.commercial crew transpiration service in support of the space station by 2017. SpaceX became the station’s firstU. S.commercial re-supply service in 2012, and Orbital Sciences Corp. is on track to become the second supplier this year.
The four person Orion capsule is following a development track that leads to an unpiloted test flight in 2014 and a joint test flight atop the new Space Launch System booster in 2017. The first piloted NASA mission of the Orion and SLS is targeted for 2021 and may launch astronauts on a mission to an asteroid.
The National Space Trophy’s previous recipients include the late Neil Armstrong and former U. S. president George H. W. Bush as well as Cernan and Stafford. The late Maxime Faget, the legendary engineer who influenced the design of the shuttle as well as the Apollo, Gemini and Mercury capsules became the initial recipient in 1987.