Bermuda plays role in NASA space station missions
Bermuda will play a critical role in helping NASA go further in space with a new tracking station at Cooper's Island.
The US space agency has set up a temporary mobile unit at the nature reserve in St David's which will monitor rockets as they travel from Wallops Flight Facility on the US east coast to the international space station and beyond.
NASA's second-in-command Lori Garver was on the Island yesterday to sign a four-year agreement with Government for use of the land.
Praising the locale, she told
The Royal Gazette: “I can't imagine we have a more beautiful tracking site.”
Ms Garver added: “It just so happens that, geographically, Bermuda is in the perfect spot for tracking, at a critical point, launches of very new spacecraft that is going to the international space station from the United States.”
She said NASA was working with private partners in US industry to send launch vehicles to the station to help with supplies and logistics. The first such mission is expected to take place this summer.
“They can utilise this unique location at a critical point in their launch to track and make sure everything is okay with the spacecraft as it travels to the space stations,” she said.
“Here we have this international programme that is the key thing for human space flight. The US are partners internationally with Russia, Europe, Canada, Japan.
“[There have been] astronauts living and working in space full-time for over 12 years now and a key part of President [Barack] Obama's plan for the future of human space flight is to again have NASA go further.
“So we'll be going beyond lower earth orbit again and critical to that is partnering with US industry in order to lower the cost of getting to and from space.”
Ms Garver, NASA's deputy administrator, and Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess visited the new tracking station yesterday. It has previously been used at other sites, including Alaska.
She said the unit was likely to be used two to four times a year for tracking space missions and that contractors and NASA personnel would man it during those times.
A small number of jobs less than ten will be created for locals in maintenance of the facility.
Ms Garver said the four-year agreement with Government could “certainly be extended”.
Noting the environmental importance of Cooper's Island, she said the station would have a small footprint of just a couple of hundred square feet and the site would be restored to its original condition after NASA's departure.
“NASA itself has a lot of experience working on nature preserves. Our very launch site of the Kennedy Space Center is on nature preserve and we are very aware of the importance of protecting the environment,” she said.
The agreement between the two governments has an educational element and will link NASA tracking experts with schools in Bermuda interested in the agency's scientific activities here.
Ms Garver said she did not know if there were plans to open up the station to the wider public.
She gave a presentation to Clearwater Middle School science students yesterday and visited scientists at Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.
Earlier, Ms Garver met Premier Paula Cox and was due to make a brief appearance in the House of Assembly, which was sitting for the Budget debate.
Bermuda previously had a NASA tracking station between 1961 and 1997, which was used during Project Mercury, the first US manned space flight project, and the Apollo missions to the moon in 1969.
The European Space Agency set up temporary facilities at Cooper's Island at the end of last year and helped track a rocket launched from French Guiana in December.
Useful websites: www.nasa.gov, www.esa.int and https://us-embassy-hamilton-bermuda/
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