Auf Wiedersehen! Germany’s goodbye to nuclear power will accelerate the transition towards a low-carbon economy

Germany’s plans to phase-out nuclear power seemed to catch many around the world by surprise and create a fair amount of skepticism. Some painted it as a “panicked overreaction” and even “environmental vandalism” to the nuclear meltdown in Japan.

One can argue that Germans are more risk-averse than other cultures. The accident of Chernobyl in 1986 resulted in a radioactive cloud over large parts of Europe for several weeks. It was a smart precaution to stay out of the rain and skip eating vegetables to avoid contamination. After experiencing this physical threat to personal health, Germans are more concerned about the risks of nuclear power than others might be.


Leave no stone unturned for a shuttle replacement

When Congress established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958, it was in response to the Soviet Union successfully launching Sputnik and as a means of enhancing our national security. The mission for the agency, as described in the Space Act of 1958, has actually changed little since that time other than to respond to an expanded notion of national security that comes from sustained leadership in technological excellence and global competitiveness.

Many of us remember watching the Apollo 11 moon landing in our living rooms, the first steps on the moon by Neil Armstrong, the launch of the first space shuttle, and now we witness the launch of the last space shuttle mission. These iconic images of space exploration and the men and women who have pioneered space for the past 50 years will not be forgotten.


Pursuing the next giant leap in space exploration

America’s founders were pioneers who risked everything to travel across unknown territories and oceans in pursuit of new frontiers. The generations of Americans who inherited this pioneering spirit embraced the idea that hard work and innovation make the impossible a reality: from establishing a lasting democracy out of a diverse people to landing a human being on the moon.   

Every day, thousands of visitors from across the globe walk the halls of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC to celebrate that very spirit. The museum not only provides young minds with a window into space exploration; it also inspires them to create broader vistas for themselves and for our nation.

But our space heritage should not be condemned to surviving only in a museum. We must not only continue to educate and inspire future generations with the great space achievements of the past. We must set new national goals for future achievements in human space exploration.


Looming shuttle layoffs could have been prevented

For 30 years, Florida’s space coast has been at the center of NASA’s shuttle program. The men and women of Florida’s 24th District have put their blood, sweat and tears into making our country the leader in space exploration. Now that the program is coming to an end, tens of thousands of people in central Florida are facing devastating layoffs; layoffs that could have been avoided if the current administration had adequately prepared the space coast for this painstaking transition. 

Through proper planning and responsible action, these layoffs could have been avoided. If only NASA and President Obama had planned for this transition instead of simply canceling the Constellation Program without a viable alternative, jobs along the space coast could have been preserved. Consequentially, families in Florida’s 24th District have been left to fend for themselves and NASA will be left paying as much as $62.7 million per seat to the Russians for trips to the International Space Station and back. That money could be used to employ Americans to build American rockets to safely fly American and international crews. 


End of shuttle program doesn’t mean end of American leadership in spaceflight

American leadership in human spaceflight is dead. Long live American leadership in human spaceflight.

Just as America ended the successful and celebrated Apollo program to blaze a different trail, now we are ending the space shuttle program to follow a different, more flexible path. Ending Apollo didn’t end American leadership in human spaceflight and ending the space shuttle program won’t end it either.

This week, Atlantis is scheduled to make the last ever liftoff of the space shuttle program. It is both joyful to see such an expensive, unsafe program end and tragic to see such an accomplished, ground-breaking program end.

There can be no doubt that the space shuttle program made the reusability of space vehicles a reality, brought dozens of crew and tons of cargo into space, and facilitated our space science goals for decades. These tremendous vehicles have served as an inspiration to countless Americans, and people around the globe.

But there is also no doubt that these vehicles fell far short of what we were initially promised: inexpensive, reliable transportation into space with 50 launches every year. What we actually received was fewer than 50 launches every decade from a technological dead end oftentimes grounded for years at a time due to technical problems. It killed 14 brave men and women and it cost about $1 billion per flight.


A new chapter for America’s space program

NASA inspires. It always has, and it always will.

I remember President Kennedy’s bold prediction that we would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade and I remember America delivering. I remember NASA delivering.

In my own life, I can distinctly remember experiences I had as a young teacher discussing basic principles of math and science in response to students’ questions about space. An ambitious space program led to remarkable gains in more than space exploration; it directly contributed to gains in my classroom.


America's space legacy

This weekend, NASA will launch Americans into space on the final flight of the space shuttle program. Our country owes a debt of gratitude to the thousands of men and women who gave so much to make this program successful, and more so to the fourteen men and women who gave their lives. Because of the satellites launched and repaired from the shuttle and its role in constructing the International Space Station, this program helped rewrite chapters in science books for future generations.

As we applaud those achievements, it is only fitting for us to ask what is next for our nation's human spaceflight program. Where are we going and when? What will it take to get there in regards to government investment and workforce needs? What technologies need to be invented to get there? Will we preserve America's space leadership legacy and exceptionalism?


Technology opens doors for women of the world

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the following remarks at the closing luncheon for the TechWomen Initiative

Being a woman in the field of technology is not always easy. Being a woman in any field is not always easy. But there are so many opportunities in technology that we just have to forge ahead. We’re doing so around the world because we want to make sure that all the tools that technology has made available are just as open to women as they are to men. I also believe that innovation thrives on good ideas, and women have a lot of good ideas. And we don’t want those ideas to just die. We want them to be shared and to help others and to create businesses and jobs and improve lives. And it has a greater impact when technology has access for everyone. 

Wherever you live, whether it’s in Silicon Valley or in the Middle East or North Africa, we want to support you. We want to support the software that you design, the engineering projects that you manage, the courses that you teach. We want to help you develop and apply new technologies, and we want to help you spread the word about what is available for all people.


Broadcast blackouts – where are we with reform efforts?

The threat of TV blackouts is never welcome news. For the millions of consumers unlucky enough to have had to worry about their favorite shows going dark, or actually losing their signals, the problem is not only real but frustrating and inconvenient. So what’s being done about it?

Blackouts occur when video distributors (such as cable, satellite and telephone companies) are unable to reach agreement with television stations over “retransmission consent” fees. These disputes frequently blow up into public relations battles with each side blaming the other and consumers getting caught in the middle. At worst, TV stations pull the plug and their channels go dark for days and sometimes weeks.

Why is this happening? Broadcasters say it’s because they need more money to pay for programming, so they have to charge higher rates. Program distributors say it’s because broadcasters have the incentive and ability to play hardball, since there is usually more than one distributor in each local market to keep carrying the station. We see it happen in large markets and small ones. 


The cloud is transforming Washington

When President Obama hosts his first Twitter town hall meeting Wednesday, it will mark the latest chapter in Washington’s migration to the Internet-based technologies already fully embraced by Americans beyond the beltway. Cloud computing, in particular, is transforming the way business gets done in Washington, and platforms like Facebook and Twitter are key to understanding voter concerns on hot-button issues like the economy, national security, health care and education.  

Over the past half-decade, social media has redefined the way government conducts its daily business. Cloud computing -- services and platforms delivered over the Internet (Facebook, Google, and Twitter are all examples) -- has become more powerful with the broad adoption of high-speed broadband. Stories about building movements, streamlining operations, recruiting followers and launching interactive Web platforms — once the stuff of front page news — have, for the most part, become routine. Stated simply, the cloud is now the most efficient way for government officials to collaborate, broadcast messages (an almost unbelievable 94 percent of all people engaged by an online political message watched it in full according to one recent survey) and directly source ideas that form the basis of public policy.