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WASHINGTON — The former head of NASA’s human spaceflight program, now working as a consultant to SpaceX, said he welcomes greater commercial activity in low Earth orbit but cautioned against ending the International Space Station prematurely.
Bill Gerstenmaier discussed the importance of the ISS, from a technical and policy standpoint, during a virtual town hall meeting Sept. 5 by the Los Angeles-Las Vegas Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). His appearance was one of his first public comments on space topics since retiring from NASA in late 2019, several months after being reassigned from the position of associate administrator for human exploration and operations and more than four decades after joining the agency.
At the AIAA town hall meeting, he outlined the benefits of the ISS program, from science and technology development to the setting of standards for future exploration efforts. The station, he added, has also been a catalyst for commercial activity, creating demand for launch services for cargo and crew and hosting a growing number of private activities and facilities.
While NASA has discussed plans to eventually transition from the ISS to private space stations in LEO, he warned against doing so too quickly. “The push …
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