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45th Space Wing unit has key role in NASA's future

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Every generation has its defining NASA moment. For some, it was Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon. For younger generations, it has been the space shuttle. For decades, a vision for space exploration has always given America's people a sense of wonder and provided challenges and opportunities to excel for our nation's youth. Our country's strong will to extend our knowledge and reach into outer space continues.

In 1958, one year after the Russian satellite Sputnik, the United States Congress created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In just 12 years, humans had become space travelers and the United States put a man on the moon. NASA's next step in its remarkable mission is the Constellation Program. As the space shuttle approaches retirement in 2010 and the International Space Station nears completion, NASA is building the next fleet of vehicles to ferry replacement crews to the International Space Station and bring astronauts back to the moon and beyond. The crew module, known as the Orion capsule, will accommodate up to six astronauts. While still in the developmental phase, NASA is currently studying contingencies for the recovery of astronauts and of the Orion capsule. This is where Department of Defense forces will have an essential role and where a 45th Space Wing unit takes the lead.

Navy Cmdr. Andy Quiett leads the Plans Division, Detachment 3, 45th Operations Group. This team of professionals, along with their NASA counterparts, is formulating the process to be used for the recovery of astronauts in conjunction with future Constellation missions. The Plans Division staff also brings a broad wealth of expertise that includes Naval and Air Force aviators, Logistics personnel and Space Operators. Although the name has changed through the years, Detachment 3 has had a role in assisting manned space flight since NASA's inception. Detachment 3 is also supported with a knowledgeable staff of USAF pararescuemen, specialized fire fighters and flight surgeons that provide fundamental inputs to the planning effort.

In late April, Detachment 3 will be hosting the 50th anniversary of DoD human space flight support to NASA. DoD support and contributions to NASA are essential to the successful and safe recovery of astronauts who will be flying the Orion capsule. This is the same support rendered to the first manned Mercury capsule in 1962 and to the last Apollo capsule in 1975. Although a coordinated effort will exist between all DoD forces, the recovery for the Orion capsules are highly reliant on naval vessels as they are planned to splash down in designated ocean areas, as was the case in previous programs before the Space Shuttle.

The first 50 years of NASA has brought an unending series of remarkable advances. Knowledge of our small sector of the universe has increased a thousand fold. The Constellation program will promote exploration, science, commerce and assures the United States preeminence in space.

"I'm amazed at the incredible work this team is doing," said Detachment Comman-der Lt. Col. Michael Tillema. "They are building the requirements for DoD support from the very beginning of the program and will ensure a solid foundation is set for future human space flight support."

As long as there are humans in space, Detachment 3, 45th Operations Group will play a vital role in support of NASA and its astronauts.