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Rockford Register Star: NASA Chief to be kenote speaker at Space Symposium

Rockford event at Giovanni’s on April 23

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ROCKFORD, IL, April 8, 2019 | comments
Because of our position as an aerospace technology hub, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, is bringing NASA Administrator James Bridenstine to Rockford to be the keynote speaker at the 2019 Aerospace Symposium.
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Aerospace manufacturing and technology development play a large part in the Rockford area’s economy, and the future is bright. Here’s an example:

Collins Aerospace, which employs 2,000 people in Rockford, is building a 25,000-square-foot lab at its Harrison Avenue factory to help build a hybrid-electric jet in 2021 with “leading-edge technology that aims to revolutionize air travel,” the Register Star reported on April 4.

The Rockford factory was called Sundstrand Aerospace when it was locally owned. Now it’s part of United Technologies. The new lab will add about 50 workers here.

The Rockford region is home to four tier-one aerospace firms and more than 250 suppliers are within a 90-minute radius, according to the Rockford Area Economic Development Council.

Area aerospace firms employ about 7,000 people who have skills that are in demand as the world moves into a new level of airplane design and space travel and exploration. As I like to remind people, our little corner of the world makes the specialty gears that allow the Mars rovers to do their work — Forest City Gear in Roscoe makes them.

Because of our position as an aerospace technology hub, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, is bringing NASA Administrator James Bridenstine to Rockford to be the keynote speaker at the 2019 Aerospace Symposium, to be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 23 at Giovanni’s Restaurant and Convention Center, 610 N. Bell School Road in Rockford. Registration fee is $50.

The event is put together by the Rockford Area Economic Development Council and the Rockford Area Aerospace Network. Besides Bridenstine, other experts will talk about leading edge technologies and trends in the aerospace industry.

On Monday, I talked by phone to Kinzinger, who is a pilot in the Wisconsin Air National Guard and an Air Force veteran.

“I’ve known James Bridenstine since he was in Congress a few years ago and was one of only two pilots in Congress still flying in National Guard units,” Kinzinger said. “I’m really pleased that he is now at NASA.”

Bridenstine, a Republican, represented Oklahoma’s 1st District in the House from 2013 to 2018, when he was appointed by President Trump to be NASA’s 13th administrator. He was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in on April 23, 2018. He previously flew E-2C Hawkeyes in Navy missions over Iraq and Afghanistan from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Kinzinger said he wanted to bring his friend Bridenstine to Rockford to tout our area’s importance in aerospace development.

“Rockford is the nation’s fifth largest aerospace manufacturing hub, and there’s nowhere to go but up,” Kinzinger said. “It’s very important for him to come here and talk about what NASA’s doing to give suppliers an idea about what’s going on and what’s coming up.”

Kinzinger believes that the next decade will see exciting developments in spaceflight that will again focus national interest and excitement on the final frontier, something that really hasn’t been on our minds since the final manned mission to the moon in 1972.

“The Martian rovers are cool, but in the next five to 10 years we will get to Mars with people,” Kinzinger said. Such a flight would take seven months, one way, or up to a year and a half for a round trip assuming the astronauts would stay on the Martian surface for a couple of months doing experiments and research.

Kinzinger also wants the U.S. to “go back to the moon with manned flights.” He wants to put high definition cameras on the moon that everyone can view on their computer screens.

I asked Kinzinger about the future of American participation in the International Space Station. U.S. astronauts used to go there on the space shuttle, but those have been grounded for several years. Now, U.S. astronauts catch a ride to the space station on Russian space capsules powered by Russian rockets, something that is becoming a problem in an era of growing hostility between the U.S. and Russia.

“The Russians aren’t really our best friends, something I could have told you 10 years ago,” Kinzinger said. He’s hopeful that Space X, a private company that has developed rockets that deliver cargo to the space station, will be able to deliver astronauts there soon.

We also talked about the president’s “Space Force.” How will it take shape? I asked the congressman.

“The way it’s trending, it’s going to be like the Marine Corps is to the Navy,” he said. The Marines are part of the U.S. Navy.

“The Air Force’s focus needs to be in the air. But in the future there will be more weapons in space and Space Force can concentrate on that.”

The original article and interview with Chuck Sweeny can be found on the Rockford Register Star website here.
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