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Editorial | Island Voices

Hawaii’s aerospace potential extends to the stars

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For over 50 years, Hawaii has been instrumental in advancing aerospace activities. Our state’s mid-Pacific location, moon/Mars-like terrain, substantial resident expertise in a range of scientific and engineering disciplines, and academic and business partnerships with nations in Asia and the Pacific, are being leveraged to realize humankind’s full potential in aeronautics and space exploration.

Hawaii is both a major contributor to and beneficiary of global aerospace enterprise. For example:

» The Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai supports the world’s largest multi-environment testing and training platform for a range of aerospace-related technologies.

» The Maui Space Surveillance System atop Mount Haleakala provides state-of-the-art satellite tracking capabilities, as well as sophisticated sensors to survey deep-space objects.

» Hawaii island served as the site where astronauts trained for humanity’s first space missions in the 1960s. Over time, world-class observatories have been developed atop the island’s volcanic peaks. We are now in the process of building the world’s largest and most powerful land-based optical/infrared telescope that will provide unparalleled views to both the edge and origins of our universe.

» The University of Hawaii supports many principal investigators in space-based, ocean, terrestrial and atmospheric research. It also manages both the Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory (which will soon launch our state’s first payload to space) and the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation Program, which is researching potential challenges posed to future astronauts on space missions to Mars.

Opportunities to grow and diversify Hawaii’s aerospace sector are endless, and can strengthen Hawaii’s economy through innovative research as well as space education and training:

» Our state is preparing to apply for a commercial spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to enable "space planes" to launch and land from local airports, carrying people and experimental payloads to space, and bringing "space tourism" to Hawaii.

» Hawaii, in partnership with Alaska and Oregon, is one of six national FAA test ranges selected to help integrate unmanned aerial systems into the national air space.

» NASA is working to develop advanced laser-based optical telecommunications systems that can transmit data to Earth-orbiting satellites and interplanetary probes. These have the potential of providing significantly higher data transmissions than current radio frequency systems. Hawaii has been selected as the nation’s best site to establish the first in a global network of Lasercom ground stations that will bring federally funded employment, research and telecom infrastructure development opportunities.

» Hawaii’s Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) is enabling new multinational field tests at planetary analog test sites on Hawaii island (simulating moon and Mars-like terrain). This is not only advancing the development of new robotic exploration systems, but also demonstrating innovative mechanisms for "living off the land" using extraterrestrial raw materials as resources for life support.

These examples underscore the substantial benefits that aerospace can bring to Hawaii. It is the most promising of economic activities that can lead us into the future. We must signal to the world that we want to engage in these endeavors, and that our private and public sectors are committed to supporting aerospace activities here.

It would be a serious blow to Hawaii’s future if we lost these opportunities.

Our state administration and Legislature must endorse aerospace in Hawaii; this includes especially financial support. This also will require our private sector — as well as organizations representing cultural, religious and other interests— to become better apprised of the opportunities from aerospace initiatives.

At age 89, it is not my future. But it is a future I am pleading for — to inspire and enable the next generation of scientists, engineers, artists, educators, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and everyone else who wants to have good, meaningful jobs in Hawaii. They are all our children and grandchildren — yours and mine.

Let’s be good stewards. Let’s reach for the stars!

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