When speaking with the Huntsville Times last week, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver mentioned NASA’s interest in heavy-lift development. That was the main focus of that report, but in her speech that weekend at the US Space and Rocket Center Hall of Fame dinner, she also brought up another aspect of the administration’s plans for NASA, its support for commercial crew development. She made the case in her prepared remarks that it is “not as radical as it seems” and even potentially beneficial to Alabama:
We are (we hope) on the cusp of achieving big things. A few companies (established and emerging) already have systems for transportation, many whose heritage is right here in Alabama. We will oversee these rockets to ensure that the highest possible safety standards are met. The U.S. has lost a large share of the commercial market. There is a growing market for launch services internationally, and by other U.S. government agencies and the private sector, both traditional markets and new ones. There is huge untapped potential for expanded markets, businesses, and jobs connected to launching cargo and eventually crew to orbit.
We believe it is time for the government to help to create a whole new sector of the economy that will produce jobs and innovation for years to come. This is precisely what has driven economic growth in this country for our entire history— government playing its critical role by investing in technology and industry doing what it does best—allowing us to spend less on operations and explore further into the universe. We’re continuing this quest that began here in Huntsville 50 years ago.
A bit later in the speech, she noted that the debate was not about whether the US should be doing space exploration, but how:
As I said the good news is that we’re debating how to do this, not whether or not we should, and that is progress. The shift is that the government may not need to be the operator of rocket systems whose sole purpose is to reach low Earth orbit anymore. We can facilitate other people who will do that for us. Meanwhile, we’ll be focused on sending missions farther into the solar system and achieving other astounding new things that will, in turn, inspire future generations. Things like humans visiting an asteroid, or robots sending pictures back from a destination we’ve never been such as the moons of Mars, and ultimately, the dusty soil of Mars itself.
And a final reminder to those not satisfied with the current situation: “If you don’t like how the politics are playing out, you have the opportunity to get involved to make them better. That’s my view.”