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New NASA appointee Mark McDaniel wants to see human space flight go beyond Mars

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Well-known Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel will soon be wearing a new hat with his selection to serve on the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council.

McDaniel said he supports the Trump Administration’s commitment to manned space flight and he’s prepared to provide the best advice he can to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on a subject dear to his heart.

“I was on the NASA Advisory Council from 2000 to 2005, and my major concern at that point was human exploration and education issues,” McDaniel said.

He believes space missions will spur new dreams and new generations of scientists.

“We have to have something that inspires our youth and NASA is the agency to do that,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel’s selection was encouraged by Huntsville-area U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks.

“Mark McDaniel’s experience and qualifications make him an excellent choice to advise NASA on its future missions,” Brooks said. “I congratulate Mark on his appointment and have confidence he will be a productive and constructive member of the committee.”

Bridenstine announced the selection during his visit to Huntsville Wednesday.

For McDaniel, space is the next frontier and just another American challenge.

“We’re all pioneers, we’re all dreamers,” he said. “And that’s what NASA can do. I mean we have to go from low-Earth orbit, we have to get back to the moon and we've got to go to Mars and we’ve got to go beyond."

McDaniel’s determined to push for those “beyond” missions, and he knows it will take time. He said the U.S. is at the Model-T stage now, and needs to develop space vehicles fast enough to allow space colonies and more. His vision is to go beyond Mars.

“That’s something that may be done 50, 100 years from now,” McDaniel. “But it’s like Winston Churchill said when the gardener came to him -- you know he wanted a certain tree planted -- and the gardener said, ‘Well it takes 100 years for it grow.’ Winston Churchill said, ‘In that case, plant it right now.’ So that’s what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to start planting it right now.”

McDaniel said a robust human space exploration will be good for Marshall Space Flight Center.

And he acknowledged challenges remain.

“When President Kennedy said we’re going to go to the Moon, 5.7 percent of the nation’s budget was dedicated to that,”McDaniel said. “Right now NASA’s budget is less than half a percent.”