White House

Holdren on shuttle, ISS, space councils, Chinese cooperation

We don’t have a NASA administrator yet, but we do have a presidential science advisor, in the form of John Holdren, who formally started work last month after a nomination hearing in February. In an interview today with the journal Science, Holdren addressed (among many other things) space policy issues.

He started with playing down and talk of additional shuttle missions after 2010, although not ruling out having the remaining missions on the manifest, as well as an additional mission (presumably for the AMS) slip beyond 2010:

ScienceInsider: Will we need additional shuttle missions to complete the space station?

Holdren: The current plan is to get an additional shuttle mission to the space station within the 2010 framework, and during the campaign the president said that he was open to the possibility of at least one more mission. The current thinking is that that can be done within 2010. If that can’t be done and things slip, then consideration will be given to going beyond that date. And that would be the last shuttle mission. There will be a gap in our capacity to put people in space with U.S. vehicles, because we will not have a follow-on to the shuttle ready before 2015.

Holden also suggested that Constellation (not mentioned by name) may not be ready in 2015, as many have speculated:

ScienceInsider: Will it [the gap] be only 4 years?

Holdren: I wouldn’t want to speculate. It’s going to be at least that long. I don’t see any way we can do it before 2015, and if things go as they often do, it might be a little later than 2015. And what we’ll have to do in that interim period is rely on our international partners, which means the Russians. It might also be the Chinese, depending on how our relationship develops.

Wait, did he suggest flying NASA astronauts on Shenzhou spacecraft?

ScienceInsider: Do you have confidence in China’s ability to launch our astronauts?

Holdren: I think it’s possible in principle to develop the required degree of confidence in the Chinese. I put it out there only as speculation, but I don’t think it should be ruled out.

Later in the interview, he indicates plans for reviving the National Space Council in some form have yet to be finalized, although he said some type of space council would be created:

ScienceInsider: What’s the relationship between NSTC [National Science and Technology Council] and the new space council?

Holdren: The space council is not yet fully articulated. One model is that it would be co-chaired by NSC and OSTP because of civil and military aspects of space. But it might sit as a committee within PCAST [President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology] or be freestanding. In a previous time, it reported to the office of the vice president. There are different options that are being considered. But there will be a space council. And again, it will be meaningful because, where ever it sits, its conclusions will propagate to the president. We’ve got a president who cares about these issues and who has a huge capacity to absorb complex issues, and we’re going to use that capacity.

12 comments to Holdren on shuttle, ISS, space councils, Chinese cooperation

  • John Cunningham

    I am less than impressed by Mr. Holdren, especially after his musings on the value of geo-engineering — creating a massive artiificial volcano to spew particulate matter into the upper atmosphere to change the Earth’s albedo and combat global warming.



  • Jose

    Imagine you’re trying to develop commercial human access to space. Isn’t this the worst possible policy for the U.S. government to take? On the one hand you’re severely limited by the onerous burden of ITAR regulations. On the other your government is actively subsidizing your foreign competitors to the tune of billions of dollars. To add insult to injury, all of this is being paid for with your tax dollars.

  • John Cunningham

    “Imagine you’re trying to develop commercial human access to space.”

    However, maybe this is NOT the philosophical foundation he has when looking at our space programs…perhaps this makes more sense if they instead see our space programs as jobs and politics.

    Jobs for political gain. Space programs as political poker chips and symbols. That’s surely not a new thing, but it’s not what I think the basis of our nation’s space programs should be.

  • Brian Koester

    This “speculation” about China launching US astronauts is very curious…

    Either Mr. Holdren is a true free thinker and wants to stir up debate on this idea by floating a balloon (which I think is ok in his role as an advisor – including the geo-engineering stuff) or he is naive in the extreme at the hornets nest he is about to stir up.

    Perhaps he is telegraphing President Obama’s intent to re-cast NASA as the leading International agency for space instead of it being a US agency that portrays itself as the Pre-eminent Civilian power in space. This could work into this administrations foreign policy goals and could serve as a make the ISS cheaper going forward. Is this so bad?

    Maybe getting China and India into the Vision for Space Exploration is a good idea? Maybe that will free up enough money to keep Constellation going and to do the moon “right” or re-start nuclear propulsion programs like the canceled Prometheus.

    I cannot imagine he means the coming 4-6 year gap but rather the long term – 10-30 years. If he does mean the short term gap, then he musn’t know about ITAR (which alarming given his position) and he is really a free thinker or the other alternative I mentioned above…..

  • Bob Mahoney

    Aside from any potential short-term political advantage or disadvantage, anyone who believes that joint space programs with other nations are cheaper than going alone is ignoring history.

  • John Cunningham

    “re-start nuclear propulsion programs like the canceled Prometheus.”

    Not when the Administration’s core support base is vehemently anti-nuclear!!

  • so does this mean usa is going to be forth comming with blue prints to
    space ships… like mcdonnell douglas gave blue prints to airships

  • Brian Koester

    @John Cunningham re: this Administration’s anti-nuclear bias

    You may have a point, I just wanted to stir the pot myself. If you are correct and the US Govt/NASA never gets this capability up and going and in a technological readiness level 6+ for Nuclear Propulsion & power in space then who will do it?

    The private sector SpaceX 2050? or Maybe the Chinese? Any thoughts?

  • […] the only publication new presidential science advisor John Holdren talked with this week when he discussed issues like the future of the shuttle and cooperation with China. In an interview with Nature, Holdren addresses that comment by President Obama regarding the […]

  • stargazer

    It sounds like the Science Advisor is keeping his options wide open when it comes to NASA and its future. I think the idea of using China as a means of sending US astronauts to the ISS is pretty lame, but they may want to frame that as an option to lure the Chinese into a more cooperative stance on a range of unrelated issues. Regarding nuclear propulsion, the Administration’s position isn’t grid locked by nuclear opponents. I am happy to hear that they are willing to reconsider that option. With reasonable restrictions (e.g. not using it for ground launched boosters) it would clearly make many more things possible for human exploration of the solar system.

    A new NASA Administrator is obviously very important. We need someone with the brains and the background — and the political heft — to fight and win the inevitable battles within the Administration and with the Congress, and be a convincing spokesperson to the broad range of scientific and industry constituencies whose support and participation are essential. This is going to be a tough job to fill. Not sure Lampson is up to it.

  • red

    Holdren’s answer on the U.S. human spaceflight gap leaves out an important solution. Obama’s space policy campaign document says:

    “Using the Private Sector: Obama will stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate spaceflight capabilities. NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services is a good model of government/industry collaboration.”

    This statement is in the part of the Obama Space Policy document on “Closing the Gap”, so my interpretation is it specifically promises to encourage the private sector to reduce the U.S. human spaceflight “gap” problem, with the current NASA COTS effort as a favored model.

  • […] Holdren on shuttle, ISS, space councils, Chinese cooperation – Space Politics […]

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