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2019 Service to America Medal winner Robert Cabana, former astronaut and director of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, discusses how he helped to revitalize the spaceport for use by commercial industry, and pave the path back to the moon.

After the conclusion of the shuttle program in 2011, the Kennedy Space Center was in a holding pattern. Facilities once key to the space program were going to be unused. Robert Cabana, former astronaut and director of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, led a revitalization of the space center’s launch portfolio, and helped to usher in a new era of private spaceflight. For his efforts, Cabana won a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal. He told Government Matters that space should remain accessible, regardless of who’s footing the bill.


“We continued with this plan to be this multi-user spaceport. We identified excess capacity we had, We went out with notices of availability to commercial companies, and slowly grew into what we were. I look back on some of the earlier agreements we did. We might have done them differently today, and getting the support wasn’t always easy, but success breeds success. As we continue to evolve and improve, iterating our plan every year, it just continued to grow and it’s turned out outstanding,” Cabana said. “It’s not government space or commercial space, there’s only one space above us. If we’re going to be successful as a nation, we need to have government and commercial integrated together. We’re going back to the moon with the Artemis program. But we’re not going alone. We’re taking our commercial and customer partners with us.”

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