Representative Steve Knight (CA-25) led a bipartisan effort Tuesday to preserve the historic rocket test stands at Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) as the cleanup of the site moves forward.
In a letter to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, Rep. Knight urged the agency to protect several structures that were used to test rocket engines during the Space Race. Despite their historical significance, the test stands are at risk of being demolished in the process of removing contamination from the site created by research and development of ballistic missiles, rockets and space shuttle equipment conducted there during the Cold War.
“We understand the need to complete the cleanup of toxic chemicals in the area from the many years of research and testing. However, the environmental protection mission and the preservation of such an important piece of our shared history are not mutually exclusive goals,” Knight and his colleagues state in the letter. “It would be a tragedy to lose these test stands and deny future generations the ability to connect with this history and humanity’s ongoing search for a better understanding of our universe.”
First built in 1949, the vertical test stands at the SFFL led to such notable aeronautics achievements as the first American-made large liquid propellant rocket engine, the Mercury-Redstone rocket, which launched the first American astronaut and satellite into space, and the Saturn and Apollo missions, including the first missions to land astronauts on the moon in 1969.
Knight’s letter was also signed by nearby Democratic Representatives Julia Brownley (CA-26), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Adam Schiff (CA-28), and Brad Sherman (CA-30).
A copy of the letter can be found here.