Editor's Notebook


Timothy B. Clark

What did I do on my summer vacation? I visited the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I'd been promising myself this trip for a decade, as I missed chance after chance for firsthand observation of the federal government's cutting-edge activities. I'd never been aboard an aircraft carrier, or flown in a fighter jet, or toured many of our spectacular national parks and forests. And I'd never seen what people say is the best thing to see: the launch of the space shuttle.

So when my friend Bob Koch of Northrop Grumman invited me to join him for the launch of STS-93, I rounded up John Clark and Melissa Blum, both freshly minted high school graduates interested in astrophysics careers, and we headed down to Orlando.

Driving into the Space Center complex, I was struck by the scale of the place. It does not seem as big as one might expect. The Space Center's launch pads and other facilities are scattered randomly in flat expanses of scrub, isolated human excrescences on an endless horizon. To be sure, there are some large structures, such as the Vehicle Assembly Building, whose height (50 stories) is less impressive than its volume--it has more square feet of interior space than virtually any structure in the world. The launch pads at the center and the adjoining Air Force base are impressive. And the huge crawler-transporter that lugs the shuttle out to the launch pads captivated my young companions. But all in all, I was reminded of how puny we humans are, and how audacious, as we shape our earth and explore the heavens.

During our tour, I was reminded of the predominance of private contractors in NASA operations. One of NASA's recent signal achievements was consolidation of base operations and support contracts for both the Kennedy Space Center and the Air Force 45th Space Wing's adjoining facilities. This $2.2 billion contract, won by Space Gateway Support, a consortium of Northrop Grumman and two other firms, received one of Vice President Al Gore's Hammer Awards in July for the huge savings it reaped for the government.

But, of course, the real excitement in late July revolved around Air Force Col. Eileen Collins, the first female shuttle commander. Hillary and Chelsea Clinton and the world-champion U.S. women's soccer team flew down, Judy Collins composed a special song and in Cocoa Beach a little girl at Rusty's eatery flaunted her "Girls Rule" T-shirt. It was the 30th anniversary of the first U.S. landing on the moon, but that ancient (male-dominated) history wasn't very exciting to the new generation of space buffs. In an exclusive interview, Melissa said that what impressed her most was "the fact that a woman was in charge." Melissa remarked that during her education, Collins "took the hard science and math courses and excelled. She is a good role model for all the young girls who want to be astronauts."

Tim sig2 5/3/96
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.