Don’t hold back, Professor

In all the press coverage of NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe’s resignation, one couldn’t help but notice this zinger in an AP article from Duke University history professor (and former NASA historian) Alex Roland:

The captain’s abandoning a sinking ship and he was assigned to the ship to keep it from sinking. So I think it’s doubly bad because, in my view, he is essentially confessing that there’s no hope for NASA on its current trajectory.

Regrettably, the AP article fails to put Professor Roland’s comments in perspective: he has been a frequent and strident critic of the space agency, so it was unlikely he would have anything positive to say about O’Keefe and the space agency.

11 comments to Don’t hold back, Professor

  • Philip

    A clever and calculated move by Roland.

    He will be the next NASA administrator.

  • Robert G. Oler

    The link is busy now but I’ll have to check it…

    The ship is sinking at NASA.


  • Mike Shupp

    It’s long been my impression that Roland had some
    very bad, disillusioning experience while at NASA
    — on the order of watching bribes being handed

    Does anyone really know why he’s so perpetually
    ticked off by the space agency?

  • John Malkin

    Where and Why is NASA sinking? How about Bronson or Rutan as NASA Administrator? They both have Vision and good financial knowledge AND would work well with commercial sector. Ok Bronson isn’t American and how much does the job pay… oh well maybe we can get Mickey Mouse to run NASA, no that would be too expensive too. It would have to be Daffy Duck.

    I’m sure Bush will pick someone that support the vision and can work with democrats (I Hope). I think there is a 90% chance the shuttle will return to Hubble and 100% chance the shuttle will finish space station to core complete. Without the support of the democrats with or without O’Keefe, we will have a four year moon program. I think the hearing before the FY06 budget will determine if the government human spaceflight is finished.

  • Paul Dietz

    I’m not sure what Roland’s argument is, but my guess would be that he’s convinced NASA’s systemic problems are unresolved, and that the VSE will be the third and final major boondoggle (after the shuttle and the space station) and that this will sink the agency.

    Being a gadfly doesn’t mean he’s necessarily wrong, though; it does mean that he has less incentive to sugarcoat his statements.

  • Mike Puckett

    Roland doesn’t have an argument, he is a historian whos opinions have been given weight far out of proportion to their worth.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Posted by Mike Puckett at December 14, 2004 07:10 PM

  • Mike Puckett

    Why? Are you getting lonely and want some Keith attention?

    If Alex Roland has been right about anything, it has been in spite, not because of himself or any intrinsic knowledge he possesses.

  • MrEarl

    Most of the comments I see from present and past NASA employees makes me even sadder to see Mr. O’Keefe go. They still don’t get it! O’Keefe saved NASA’s a**. When he took over the agency it had a space station that was hemorrhaging red ink, an aging fleet of increasingly dangerous spacecraft, no direction and the morale of a soviet gulag. During his tenure he brought fiscal responsibility, the beginnings of a new spacecraft but most of all a new direction, something NASA has lacked since July 24th, 1969 when Apollo 11 “returned safely to the earth’. The true scope of what he accomplished was evident last month. He is a skilled politician that not only got NASA a hefty increase when other non-defense or non homeland security agencies were receiving cuts, he was also able to wrangle full monetary discretion from congress. This is something that would have been unthinkable under Goldin.
    His most controversial decision has been the canceling of the Hubble repair mission. James Webb the first (and in my opinion best) NASA administrator had a similar choice during the Mercury program. He canceled a seventh Mercury flight, a three day mission by Allen Shepard. Nobody was happy about it but Webb argued, “If you do it and it’s successful, it doesn’t mean a hell of a lot. If we were to have a failure we couldn’t recover. It might stop the manned space program.”. While a success for the Hubble service mission would be more beneficial than a seventh Mercury flight a loss of another shuttle and crew would end US manned space flight in our lifetime. Let’s not forget that the Webb telescope will be in orbit around L1 in 2011 or 2012.
    So for my money the next NASA administrator should be a good politician/manager. Someone who can do the political in-fighting with the best of them and also has the president’s ear.
    I would like to say thanks Mr. O’Keefe for a job well done.

  • Dogsbd

    >>They still don’t get it!

    You’re so right Earl. Most of the O’Keefe detractor comments I’ve seen have been from “Hubble-huggers”. Those who think that Hubble is the most important aspect of NASA truly “don’t get it”.

  • Bill White

    While a success for the Hubble service mission would be more beneficial than a seventh Mercury flight a loss of another shuttle and crew would end US manned space flight in our lifetime.

    =IF= flying the orbiter really is this unsafe (and quite possibly you are correct) =then= the orbiter should never fly again. Period.

    Therefore, if we resolved to ground the orbiter and either (a) abandon US participation in ISS; or (b) support completion of ISS another way, using shuttle C+ (5 segment SRBs and RS-68s) or Proton then I would more easily support no Hubble mission.

    But to say no Hubble service mission by orbiter, but a full menu of ISS completion flights by orbiter is blatantly contradictory, in my opinion. For the same reason offered in the quote.

    If we lose an orbiter even at an ISS “safe haven” our space program will suffer the same consequences you describe above and since ISS lacks enough food for an extended stay by 7 or 8 crew and a 45 day stay will tax the life support, a failed orbiter mission to ISS will terminate both programs anyways.

    Using ISS as a “safe haven” jeopardizes ISS itself.

    =IF= orbiter is unsafe and has growing “hanger rash” ground it today and either walk away from ISS or find another way to finish it.