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He’s not acting anymore

Dr. George Nield, who had been the acting associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the FAA since Patti Grace Smith retired in early February, can take “acting” off his job title. Nield was formally named as associate administrator today by (ironically) acting FAA administrator Robert Sturgell. Here’s a quote from Nield in the FAA release:

“This is a very exciting time for those of us working in commercial space transportation,” said Nield. “With the pending retirement of the Space Shuttle, NASA has pledged to use commercial space vehicles to service the International Space Station, and the FAA will license those launches. We are also looking forward to the debut of commercial human spaceflight, with hundreds of flights per year carrying paying passengers to the edge of space. Each of these endeavors will require us to think about new ways of doing business, while continuing to keep public safety as our top priority.”

[Standard disclaimers and disclosures apply. While my employer does work for FAA/AST, I actually first heard about this appointment earlier today from someone outside of that office who found out about it through his grapevine.]

13 comments to He’s not acting anymore

  • D. Messier

    Question for everyone: Given the recent mess with airline safety (Southwest flying planes with meter-long stress cracks in them) and NASA’s handling of its own aviation safety report, how rigorous do you think either agency is going to be in certifying/regulating/demanding high standards of the commercial space industry? Aviation is a mature industry, and look how things were managed.

    All this seems indicative of a laissez-faire, let business regulate itself attitude by the current government that also left us with lead toys and unsafe food, among other things. It’s a little worrisome that the regulations for this nascent commercial space industry were worked out and implemented by the current government. It also makes me wonder a bit about COTS, which is trying to do a fair amount without a lot of money.

    I’m wondering if there will be problems down the road as some of these systems start flying and we find out the government had too light of a touch in terms of overseeing everything. It could have some very costly and fatal consequences.

  • It could have some very costly and fatal consequences.

    If we’re not willing to accept fatalities, we have no business opening up a frontier. The government has no idea how to “certify” space vehicles, and won’t until the industry matures.

  • Al Fansome

    MESSIER: It could have some very costly and fatal consequences.

    Doug,

    Are you suggesting that cars should be outlawed?

    Last time I checked, getting into your car every day, and driving on the roads with all those other crazy people, kills 50,000 people per year. Cars are very dangerous. Everybody knows this, but we still get into them every day.

    Are you suggesting that climbing Mount Everest should be outlawed?

    The fatality rate, as a percentage, for those attempting to climb to the peak of Everest is very high. The climbers know this, but we don’t stop them from trying.

    Are you suggesting that smoking should be “outlawed” even in the privacy of your own home?

    Smoking kills large numbers of people, every year. We make sure that people are “informed” of the risk of cancer, and other health problems, by labeling and commercials on TV. But we don’t outlaw smoking in the private homes.

    Why don’t we flip out over these “risks”, and outlaw these activities? Because we consider them to be ACCEPTED risks, and because those taking the risks are generally informed of the risks.

    My choice of words here is key — you (and everybody else) has some say in whether the risk of somebody dying in one of these space vehicles is “acceptable”.

    If you don’t think it is “acceptable” for an adult person with “informed consent” to risk their lives, please say why. And explain what is different between getting into a spaceship, and doing all these other risky activities.

    FWIW,

    – Al

  • Choking

    Are you suggesting that cars should be outlawed?

    Are you suggesting that we not complain about being forced to breathe your polluted air?

    Are you suggesting that climbing Mount Everest should be outlawed?

    Are you suggesting that we allow you to continue to pollute the natural environment with your cast off and discarded gear?

    Smoking kills large numbers of people, every year. We make sure that people are “informed” of the risk of cancer, and other health problems, by labeling and commercials on TV. But we don’t outlaw smoking in the private homes.

    But we have outlawed it in most public places, because surely we shouldn’t be forced to breathe your second hand smoke. The same applies to your automobile and diesel truck exhaust.

    When a piece of space junk hits your spacecraft at 15,000 mph, you’ll have nothing to complain about. Tough luck, that’s the way it goes. We certainly can’t be forced to outlaw the continued polluting of low Earth orbit, right?

    Human beings need to GROW UP. If you don’t, nature soon will force you to in the most harsh and tragic manner imanginable. Very soon. Real bad.

    And I’m guessing most of you will complain about it as if it’s nature’s fault.

  • Al Fansome

    FANSOME: Are you suggesting that cars should be outlawed?

    CHOKING: Are you suggesting that we not complain about being forced to breathe your polluted air?

    Not at all. We were talking about the “risk to life” (e.g. fatal consequences). You are bringing up a different issue.

    We do regulate “car pollution” to minimize it. Possibly, you are suggesting the regulations do not go far enough?

    If so, please say so, and suggest what the regulatory standard should be.

    FANSOME: Are you suggesting that climbing Mount Everest should be outlawed?

    CHOKING: Are you suggesting that we allow you to continue to pollute the natural environment with your cast off and discarded gear?

    This is a complete strawman. I am not suggesting this at all.

    Hikers (wherever they are in the world) should not be allowed to pollute the environment. We have littering laws for this purpose.

    FANSOME: Smoking kills large numbers of people, every year. We make sure that people are “informed” of the risk of cancer, and other health problems, by labeling and commercials on TV. But we don’t outlaw smoking in the private homes.

    CHOKING: But we have outlawed it in most public places, because surely we shouldn’t be forced to breathe your second hand smoke. The same applies to your automobile and diesel truck exhaust.

    Obviously, your reading comprehension is handicapped. I specifically stated “we don’t outlaw smoking in the private homes”.

    I thought it was obvious that I was not suggesting that people had a right to make others breathe their second-hand smoke.

    BACK TO THE POINT:

    The FAA-AST already regulates the industry to minimize what is called 3rd party liability. So your safety and my safety is protected.

    This is the equivalent of littering laws, second-hand smoke laws, and car pollution minimization laws and regulation.

    The issue is whether the “spaceflight participants” will be allowed the freedom to choose to risk their own lives, provided they have been informed of the risks, and have provided informed consent.

    This is analogous to having been informed of the risks of smoking (labeling, commercials), informed of the risks of climbing Everest, informed of the risks of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, and informed of the risks of driving a car (you are required to take a test to get a driver’s license, and kids are generally required to take a driver’s ed class).

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • D. Messier

    Rand wrote:
    If we’re not willing to accept fatalities, we have no business opening up a frontier. The government has no idea how to “certify” space vehicles, and won’t until the industry matures.

    Interesting points, Rand. And I guess I would agree to some extent.

    Some of these folks are good friends of mine. At that point, it goes from the theoretical to something very personal. It would be a difficult thing to bear.

    Question: the FAA still has to certify flight worthiness of anything that carries passengers, right? And the space companies will point to that approval as proof of safety. Yet, you’re saying it won’t really be worth much?

    That’s the sort of fuzzy aspect of informed consent. How informed are people that? It’s what is most haunting about Challenger: Was the crew really informed about just how dangerous the flight was? Did they know that engineers were begging, pleading with NASA not to launch because the feared exactly what happened? Did they know how NASA bent it flight rules trying to make some unreasonable schedule and budget? Would they have dared have set foot on the vehicle if they had really known?

    You can see the Challenger astronauts as heroes. Many people do, and I understand that. But, to some extent their deaths seemed needless, the result of people determined to stay on a schedule and budget that made no sense. And you wonder if someone you know will suffer a similar fate because the company involved is trying to keep to a schedule and reach a certain profit margin.

  • Question: the FAA still has to certify flight worthiness of anything that carries passengers, right?

    Not for space. There is no certification regime for space vehicles. All there is is a launch license. The FAA’s only responsibility is to ensure the safety of uninvolved third parties (i.e., the general public) and to see that no treaties or laws are violated (like the National Environmental Protection Act). They have no responsibility for the safety of passengers aka “spaceflight participants,” who fly under an informed consent regime.

    And you wonder if someone you know will suffer a similar fate because the company involved is trying to keep to a schedule and reach a certain profit margin.

    It’s not a good business practice to kill your customers.

    Al, please don’t feed the troll. It’s almost certainly Elifritz.

  • Vladislaw

    “Are you suggesting that we allow you to continue to pollute the natural environment with your cast off and discarded gear?”

    Here is another one that thinks nature is this totally benign and peaceful environment if ONLY you could somehow remove humans from the picture. What a fallacy!

    Nature and life is in a constant state of war. Dandilions will invade a lawn of grass and choke it to death, trees will come and shade the dandilions out of existence. Deer without a predator population will eat and breed themselves to starvation. There are over 2000 underground coal fires burning on the planet at any one time spewing out sulfur and everything points to coal fires have been burning somewhere on the planet for a billion years. Get off your soap box that jumans are the devil, nature is the devil, humans, the smart little monkeys that we are, are only trying to survive it.

  • Choking

    The stupidity and arrogance of Americans is a neverending source of astonishment and comedy for me. I’m not saying that we need to take humans out of the picture, I’m saying we need to take the discarded gear of humans out of the picture. What happens in your spaceship needs to stay on your spaceship, get it?

    The dandelions invade your lawn because your LAWN is the invader, get it?

    You depend upon a very thin two dimensional layer of compost for everything in your life, trees, plants, bacteria, the whole shebang, and whats the first thing you do, but pave it over, plant a huge McSpaceShip onto it, and then wipe out the surrounding area with a vanity lawn.

    Did it ever occur to you that you could plant a huge McSpaceShip under it, one that wouldn’t need any coal, gas or oil to heat or cool, and then let the animals and trees and plants frolic as they always have on top of it, with your reaping the benefits of your continued existence by their continued existence, and existence that you completely depend upon to survive?

    So you invade a sovereign nation based upon lies and deceipt, and you expect that natives not to fight back, instead think they’ll throw dandelions at you? What the hell is wrong with you people?

    The burning coal thing is just laughable, you idiots are in serious trouble.

    Go right ahead, continue to pollute low earth orbit and the earth as you always have, the virus and bacteria have a plan to fight back and kill you.

    A stray inanimate nut can easily take you out in low earth orbit.

    You ain’t got nothing on viruses and nuts.

  • Al Fansome

    MESSIER: That’s the sort of fuzzy aspect of informed consent. How informed are people that?

    Doug,

    The definition of “informed consent” is a substantive issue being pondered by many in the industry, and in the FAA-AST.

    My thinking –

    1) You can prove “consent” by having a sane adult sign a form.

    2) So, how do you prove they are “informed”?

    You require them to take a test, which can prove that they were listening & have retained the key INFORMation (e.g., they are INFORMed).

    If they don’t pass the test, they are not allowed to fly.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Vladislaw

    “I’m not saying that we need to take humans out of the picture, …. Go right ahead, continue to pollute low earth orbit and the earth as you always have, the virus and bacteria have a plan to fight back and kill you.”

    gosh, shouldnt you have finished your post with “death to america”?

    ALL LIFE are invaders, it does not matter the species, they all try to do the same thing, develope a competitive advantage over the others and try to exploit it to the maximum breeding potential at the expense of whatever life form is there. If the amount of heat, light, radiation, water or WHATEVER changes, natural or manmade, species adapt, die or INVADE another area and try to compete there.

    You seem to think that every species has this internal light switch and it suddenly goes off simultanously for every member of the species and they all take off like a lemming’s march to the sea. Sorry, humanity has NEVER worked like that. Someone gets an idea and others follow or not. In your case it is “do exactly what I say because god commands me and I know best or I will commit mass genocide on your entire population down innocent infant babies.”

    Your points would only be valid if humans NEVER learned to rotate crops, to move their flocks do different grazing fields, if we NEVER enacted ANY pollution laws, safety laws, et cetera. You want to compare USA pollution laws with China?

    COULD some laws be better? COULD the entire human population wake up? Yes, we could do a better job in areas but that does not mean we are not trying and moving in those directions. We have humans on the planet that not only believe in religous armageddon but actively try to bring it about ( like you for example) to humans that do not believe man landed on the moon.

    From your rant about death to america I would almost take you for religious zealot, or eco terrorist who is willing to commit mass genocide against the USA as being fundamentally okay. Did your god talk to you and say that mass murder of innocent babies all over america was okay in the name of YOUR progress? You sound almost biblical.

    The human species is not some tiny group existing in an isolated pocket, we are billions and with those billions we have ALL stages of evolution and DE-evolution going on at all times. Humanity does move forward, it is why they call it ENLIGHTENMENT. Mankind can create disasters ( like say you wanting to commit mass genocide against every american even innocent babies ) as easy as any other species or nature can cause them. All we can do is hope we can get our DNA off the planet so humanity can escape the next extintion event when it comes, whether it is man made OR natural. And with your dreams off mass GENOCIDE for innocent babies I would imagine extinction would be right around the corner if ONLY someone would let you push the button to release the virus.

    Well I will let you get back to reading mien kampf and the “final solution” for america.

  • Vladislaw

    oh, and about the “laughable coal fires” …

    Underground coal fires are relentlessly incinerating millions of tons of coal around the world.

    The blazes spew out huge amounts of air pollutants, force residents to flee their homes, send toxic runoff flowing into waterways, and leave the land above as scarred as a battlefield.

    “A global environmental catastrophe” is how geologist Glenn B. Stracher described the situation.

    Stracher, of East Georgia College in Swainsboro, organized an international symposium on the topic at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    “This symposium is dedicated to disclosing the severity of the coal fires problem,” Stracher said, noting that some of the fires have been burning for centuries with few people aware of the problem.

    Concern and action is needed, he said, because of the environmental impact — especially of mega-fires burning in India, China and elsewhere in Asia. One coal fire in northern China, for instance, is burning over an area more than 3,000 miles wide and almost 450 miles long.

    “The direct and indirect economic losses from coal fires are huge,” said Paul M. van Dijk, a Dutch scientist who is tracking the Chinese blazes via satellite.

    He estimated that the Chinese fires alone consume 120 million tons of coal annually. That’s almost as much as the annual coal production in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois combined.

    The Chinese fires also make a big, hidden contribution to global warming through the greenhouse effect, scientists said. Each year they release 360 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as much as all the cars and light trucks in the United States.

    Soot from the fires in China, India and other Asian countries are a source of the “Asian Brown Haze.” It’s a 2-mile thick cloud of soot, acid droplets and other material that sometimes stretches across South Asia from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka.

    The cloud causes acid rain that damages crops, cuts sunlight reaching the ground by 10 to 15 percent, and has been implicated in thousands of annual lung disease deaths.

  • Jeff Foust

    A reminder to keep comments on topic to the original post. Given the irretrievably huge drift here, comments for this post are now closed.