Stennis director reacts to surprise vote in Congress

By Jeff Lawson – bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Congress surprised a lot of people this week when it voted to extend the space shuttle program another year. The vote also backs President Obama's intent to use commercial carriers to lift human beings into near Earth space, and it dismantles the program under which President Bush sought to return astronauts to the moon.

Patrick Sherman, the new director at Stennis Space Center, told WLOX News that his facility's responsibilities with the space shuttle program are over. So the congressional vote has no effect on Stennis. The Hancock County facility has been testing space shuttle engines for 30 years now, but that mission is changing.

"From Apollo, to shuttle, to Constellation, to what comes after Constellation, there is a lot of uncertainty on a lot of fronts," Sherman said. "But the main certainty is, if we are going to leave this planet, it is going to come through Hancock County, as far as rocket engine development."

In addition to doing work for NASA, Stennis is also now working with commercial companies.

"We just had a commercial engine delivered on Saturday, as a matter of fact, to continue to expand our presence and partnership with the commercial industry and the military," Sherman said.

No matter what the future mission for Stennis turns out to be, Sherman is convinced the Hancock County facility will be here for a long time because of its unique capability that exists nowhere else.

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