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Why We Must SUSTAIN Human Spaceflight

A Marine was the first American into orbit... all those decades ago
by Jeff Wright
Los Angeles - Oct 13, 2003
Very quietly, a bold new vision for space is taking place within the halls of the Pentagon. And the Branch of the service behind this wonderful new development is none other that the United States Marine Corps. Hoo-RAH!

To quote a a recent Universal Need Statement (UNS):

"The Marine Corps needs a capability to transport small mission-tailored units thru space from any point on the globe to a contingency at any other point on the globe within minutes...This includes a need for flexibility, such as the ability to loiter in Low Earth Orbit to optimise the time of insertion..."

"The War on Terrorism highlights the need for flexible, rapid response options to contingencies around the world at their earliest stages..."

General Medaris, who once called for troop rockets, would be proud.

The craft would have a negligible sensor cross section, that may be best achieved by boost from heavy-lift. The vehicle must also have kinetic air defense survivability and orbital sustainment, with flexible launch on demand also being a need. The ability to overfly boundaries with little alarm is a must.

On July 30, 2003, Brigadier Richard C. Zilmer gave a statement before the Senate Subcommitte on Science, Technology, and Space, where he gave this quote.

"With regards to the Marine Corp's role in space exploration and manned space flight, we are proud of the historic role we have played in opening up space as a medium of great practical utility. It is notable that The Honorable John Glenn, A Marine, was the first American in space to orbit the Earth...From the arliest days of our involvement, we have made both intellectual and inspirational contributions to the Space Program...and will continue to help define the critical roles that space will play in national security."

On 22 July 2002 Lt. General "Buck" Bedard signed the Small Unit Space Transport and Insetion (SUSTAIN) need statement "blazing a trail to a new expeditionary assault support capability for the next chapter of Marine Corp history."

The following quotes show the seriousness of the Brigadier General:

"The SUSTAIN need relates directly to our Service Advocacy for the reinvigoration of NASA's scientific space exploration activities. While the core missions of the Marine Corp and NASA differ fundamentally, the technology sets they will require to accomplish their respective missions share significant commonalities...there exists a tremendous potential synergy that will mitigate the otherwise prohibitive expense of a solo-DoD technology/capability thrust."

"The Nation can likely only afford one such large, ambitious transformational and/or manned space program at a given time. But that one program can simultaneously serve many customers in commerce, science, and other governmental and civil applications."

"Because our needs lean forward ahead of technology acceleration curve, we desire a NASA that is both energized and unafraid of the space exploration-related science and technology challenges that lie ahead."

Major General Kevin B. Kuklok agrees, and adds, in his March 12, 2003 Statement:

"The benefits of the changes to national security space are clearlt evident, and the space community has already gained considerable unity of effort, authoritative leadership, effective advocacy, and a growing identity...Just as the Army Air Corps eventually outgrew its historical constraints to become the Air Force, we should remain open minded and proactive with regards to space."

General Zilmer ends his statement with the following:

"Whether it is in conjunction with the Air Force Executive Agent for Space or an eventual Space Force or Space Service, the Marine Corp stands ready to work with NASA and others to meet the national security challenges of the 21st Century on land, at sea, in the air, and through space."

Could tomorrows heavy-lift be the ticket to ride for the DropShips of the future? Who can tell.

But rest assured, when the enemy sees the child of SUSTAIN on approach, he will say, (if he even gets the chance)...

"Game over, man!--game over!"

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Our dependence on centralized systems - for power, water and other critical resources - has left us increasingly vulnerable. Negligence and enemy attack alike can threaten millions with a single-point failure. Space research can pioneer technologies to free us from dependence on these fragile, outdated systems while opening up the solar system to human exploration.

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