NASA Pivots to a New Direction

Official portrait of Deputy NASA Administrator...

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What a “Week in Space” it has been!  I traveled to Washington D.C. to  see the drafting of the first page in a new chapter of the history of US manned exploration of space. The Obama White House is out with its budget proposal for 2011 – and it calls for the cancellation of the Constellation program – which former NASA Administrator once called “Apollo on Steroids.”  But the program remained a 90 pound weakling – rolled out by the Bush administration 6 years ago – it never got the funding it needed and never gelled with the public. On Budget day – February first – I caught up with the NASA deputy Administrator Lori Garver as she rolled out the long rumored details….

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3 Responses to “NASA Pivots to a New Direction”

  1. Bill Vannerson Says:

    I can see the value of promoting the use of commercial business to develop cargo and passenger flights to ISS. And for the flexibility of unmanned exploration to the planets. But what’s missing from this “vision” is manned space exploration. Commercial businesses will not fund exploration for the sole benefit of the science of manned space flight. To me this signals the end of America’s dominance in space exploration and related technologies. We can rely upon Russia for the short term but will end up turning towards China as the true leader some day. Then when folks realize what has happened, we will be in a new space race, the race to catch up.

  2. charlesthespaceguy Says:

    As an aerospace contractor, I know that safety and even mission success does NOT depend on the employer, but on motivation. So commercial spaceflight CAN work – just ask Burt Rutan.

    The reason that this move is SO BAD is the way that it is being done! First, we are again showing our reliable partners (ESA, JAXA) that we cannot be trusted or relied on. From now on, they will build spacecraft to Russian standards since Russia is reliable. Spacecraft will dock with Russian adapters, etc.

    And this way of transitioning from government to commercial space is enormously wasteful – soon the commercial operators will need mockup facilities, training facilities, test stands, buildings to assemble spacecraft in, etc etc. They will need to certify spacecraft for docking, etc. They will need people experienced in lots of skills. Meanwhile, many of those facilities are on JSC, KSC, and MSFC. We need to figure out how to allow commercial providers to access them – or will they have to build duplicate facilities? And what will those government facilites be doing in the meantime?

    We were going to assemble Orion in the O&C Building at KSC. If Boeing builds a capsule, will they need to find their own building? What is the O&C building going to be used for now – a museum? JSC has training facilities – can commercial operators use them? Who would pay for changes? Could MSFC engineers use their facilities to verify data flow from several commercial capsules?

    Many of the contractor and NASA mid-career engineers will drift off (rather than work on nebulous projects) and we will have to re-create teams to do many of the things that are being done today. Training will be wasted, corporate knowledge will be dissipated. Many people with lots of training will now be asked to re-train to do make work science fair projects – with little hope of seeing them used for anything. Hopefully, many of the contractor and NASA engineers will be able to come back (in a year or two) and work for commercial space enterprises – and we’ll pay them to get re-trained, re-investigated, etc.

    A true visionary would transfer smoothly from one program to another, and would not force thousands of people to go through this sort of wasteful chaos.

  3. Facebook User Says:

    I have long advocated for a more prominent role for the Space entrepanuers. However the heavy lift and return capability of the Space shuttle system is going to be greatly missed.
    The Constellation was a step backward and should be scrapped.
    Does anyone want to join with me in making an offer to refurbish the shuttle and offer launch capability as a non-profit NGO?
    If NASA wants to be rid of it, I am sure some space cadets can make good use of it.

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