Human spaceflight is one of the greatest enterprises America has ever undertaken — making discoveries, creating inventions, producing role models and educational motivations for our youth, and serving as a strong example of US world leadership.
Since the mid-20th century, NASA has led our nation and the world in this great undertaking. Today, however, we no longer live in the 20th century — but instead the 21st century. This is a century with new challenges and also new opportunities.
If the United States wishes to continue its leadership in human spaceflight during these challenging economic times, setting an example for all the world to follow, we believe that it must vigorously support the development of new human spaceflight capabilities in the private sector.
We, the families of the space shuttle Challenger crew and founders of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education — heroes we lost to further the exploration of space — strongly support the continuation of human spaceflight under a new paradigm of commercially led efforts to low earth orbit, and government led efforts beyond.
We recognize that commercial development in human spaceflight is a new paradigm, but so was America's government-driven space program at its birth more than 50 years ago. Our nation and others have been quite successful in moving the aviation industry from a military and government led operation to a viable commercial industry; we believe a similar approach is now necessary in space.
We also recognize that the commercialization of space will bring new innovations, capabilities, public interest, and economies to the grandest of human endeavor. This will also allow NASA to focus on deep space exploration, as it should.
Such an approach to the continued exploration of space is a strong one for our country and our economy. We must not delay in shaping the future of human spaceflight for our next generation of scientists, engineers and astronauts.