By Ken Warren, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 17, 2007
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The DoD Manned Space Flight Support Office (DDMS) was inactivated in a ceremony April 3 here.
Immediately preceding the ceremony, alumni of NASA's Apollo program shared a working luncheon with current Air Force and NASA officials planning astronaut recovery operations for NASA's upcoming Constellation program. Constellation is set to fly to the moon and beyond as the follow-on human space flight program to the space shuttle.
"DDMS was inactivated, but its mission will go on. Its follow-on organization, Human Space Flight Support (HSFS), will continue to support NASA, including the Constellation program," said Lt. Col. Nick Seaward, HSFS chief. "That's what we discussed at the luncheon."
Under the 45th Operations Group, HSFS will handle most of the tactical/day-to-day operations previously handled by DDMS. The strategic operations previously managed by DDMS will be primarily conducted by the Joint Force Component Command for Space at Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
"We're calling this an inactivation, but it's really more of a reorganization designed to place tactical and strategic responsibilities at the right levels," said Lt. Col. Seaward. HSFS will retain the old DDMS job of being a primary DoD liaison with NASA for coordinating support for astronaut rescue and recovery, contingency landing support, medical support, Soyuz landings and more.
"HSFS will continue to serve as an extremely essential coordinating office for contingency support as NASA transitions from the space shuttle to the new Orion crew exploration vehicle," said Brig. Gen. Susan Helms, 45th SW commander. "As a former astronaut, I fully recognize and appreciate DDMS's contributions to America's human space flight program."
Topics ranging from the preferred area for recovery after a nominal Apollo mission to the locations of DoD forces during Apollo launches and landings were covered at the luncheon.
Among the Apollo alumni present were Milt Heflin, former NASA Apollo Recovery Manager and current associated director of Johnson Space Center and retired Air Force Col. John Sniegowski, DDMS Director from 1975-1985.
"The technology of today - especially in communication and navigation -- is going to prevent us from needing to deploy a large force for Constellation recovery operations," said Mr. Heflin. "But just like back in the old days, the emphasis has got to be put on getting human beings back safely."
Col. Sniegowski encouraged lots of communication and joint operations between NASA and the DoD. "What we learned back in the Apollo days was how important it is to get together and talk a lot," he said. "We developed and identified requirements together. We talked early and often."
Tuesday's luncheon was possibly the first of what could be a series of dialogues between the "old-timers" and current aerospace workers.
"Having these discussions on a recurring basis would be good. You can't prepare and train enough," said Mr. Heflin. "Talk about full circle. Here I am talking about (space capsule) recovery kinds of stuff, just like 40 years ago."