Friday’s speaker at the Space Transportation Association luncheon on Capitol Hill was Doug Cooke, making one of his first public speeches in his new role as associate administrator for exploration systems at NASA. Cooke’s speech was largely devoted to the highlights of the last year and the plans for the coming year for the various aspects of the exploration program, primarily the Ares 1 launch vehicle and Orion spacecraft, but also LRO, Ares 5, and Altair as well. It was information probably similar to what Cooke and other NASA exploration managers plan to discuss at a press conference next week.
Cooke did acknowledge, briefly, potential changes in the exploration program given the coming change in administrations. He noted that the future direction of NASA’s exploration program will depend on the new administration and Congress. “We do not know yet what that direction is,” he said, “but we will, of course, adapt to the changes in direction, if there are any, when we receive them.”
Cooke also mentioned criticism of the Ares 1 development in particular, mentioning the recent preliminary design review. “I attended the review myself, and despite what was said in the blogosphere and the sensational media, it was very professionally done,” he said. The number of “yellow and orange” evaluations that came out of the PDR, he said, was because the review was focused on those issues. “So we asked a lot of hard questions, and I have to say that the team was especially well-prepared.”
During the Q&A session that followed, I asked Cooke why he felt Constellation, and in particular Ares 1, was getting so much negative attention on the Internet given his and his team’s confidence in the design. “I’m not an expert on the blogosphere,” he responded, “but there are other architectures people would like to fly and there are folks who also talk about different destinations.” These critics therefore seek out audiences, including online, for their alternatives, he said. “The blogosphere feeds on itself, so it’s unfortunate.”