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Jim Bridenstine, committee chairman Lamar Smith talk space, environmental regulation

by Randy Krehbiel

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Washington, December 5, 2015 | comments

First District Congressman Jim Bridenstine brought House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas to Tulsa on Friday.

Publicly, they talked mostly about how bad the Obama administration’s environmental regulations are.

Privately, at a dinner with area manufacturers Friday night at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium, they planned to discuss putting the “space” back into Tulsa’s aerospace sector.

“We’ve been talking about a burgeoning space industry, with private commercial companies launching constellations of satellites the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” Bridenstine said during a press conference earlier in the day.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett, appearing at the same news conference, said, “We could segue very easily into things like cyber security that have a real part in space.”

“You have a good foundation,” Smith said. “There is a role for Tulsa in the continued commercialization of space.”

Tulsa’s involvement in space manufacturing goes back many decades. The need to transport large aerospace components even figured into the completion of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.

In the mid-1950s, Douglas Aircraft’s plant in Tulsa began developing the Delta launch system that, in various forms, has carried satellites into space for more than a half-century. Soon after, North American Aviation — later North American Rockwell and now Boeing Co. — began building components for America’s manned space program, including the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

“We made major components of the Saturn rocket that took Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong to the moon,” said Bridenstine, a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium.

“We built the bay doors on all of the space shuttles, which are quite frankly engineering marvels,” Bridenstine said. “We built the big devices that bring the shuttle up vertical for the launch. … We built all 11 trusses on the International Space Station. We built the devices that maneuver the big solar arrays on the International Space Station. The shuttle carrier aircraft, the 747 that carried the space shuttle on its back, was modified right here in the city of Tulsa.

“The city of Tulsa has a history of this sort of thing. We’re quite good at it. Now that space flight is becoming more commercialized, my opinion is that the city of Tulsa needs to be more aggressive and the state of Oklahoma needs to be more aggressive.”

It will take some retooling. Oklahoma now has about 20,000 people working in the aerospace sector, but very few in space industries.

Bridenstine said during the morning news conference at ONEOK Field that he and Smith wanted to reassure Tulsa’s established sector — oil and gas — that “we understand their concerns, that we are trying to address them, and that ultimately we have their best interests in mind.”

As chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Smith has taken positions on climate and environmental regulation similar to those of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe. Both committees oversee the Environmental Protection Agency, and both chairmen have come in for similar criticism from the scientific community.

Smith said Friday that he is “trying to keep the EPA honest” and enact “reasonable regulations that actually do something.”

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Tags: Energy