Congress, NASA, White House

A call for a “pioneering” NASA

“NASA is an exceptional institution in a tremendous predicament.” So begins the latest report to try and guide the space agency’s future. “Pioneering: Sustaining U.S. Leadership in Space”, released Tuesday by the Space Foundation, argues that NASA should be refocused on those activities on the leading edge of space, turning over other civil space functions either to other government agencies or the commercial sector.

What exactly is “pioneering”? The report describes pioneering as being the first to enter a region and developing infrastructure to open it up for others, and divides it into four phases: access, the logistics of getting someplace new; exploration, finding out what is there; utilization, making use of what is there for other purposes; and transition, handing over those activities to others and starting the process over again.

“A pioneering paradigm for a space program leads to the idea that the purpose of the space program is to incorporate the rest of the Solar System into the human sphere of influence,” the report states. “Pioneering is fundamentally an enabling and capacity-building activity.”

This approach is ultimately designed to give NASA a focus it has lacked for decades, Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham said at a Capitol Hill event Tuesday to roll out the report. “The fundamentals of managing a good organization don’t change from government to private enterprise,” he said. “Any world-class organization has certain attributes.” Specifically, he said such organizations have focused purposes, clear short- and long-term plans, and management controls and discipline.

The report includes a number of recommendations to give those NASA those attributes and make it a “pioneering” organization. Those recommendations include amending the Space Act to make pioneering the agency’s primary purpose, and to eliminate other, less relevant purposes. It also calls on streamlining the agency by divesting roles and associated infrastructure that no longer fit into that pioneering role, transferring them to other agencies or the private sector.

The report, though, stops short of identifying specific missions that should be divested, such as Earth sciences or aeronautics, two areas that some in the past have suggested be taken out of NASA. “We tried to avoid commenting on specific existing programs or specific destinations,” Pulham said when asked about that. “We think that once you’re focused on pioneering, it will become evident” what programs to focus on what what should be transferred.

The report also makes some managerial recommendations for NASA that have parallels to a recently introduced bill. The report calls on giving the NASA administrator a five-year term that can be renewed, and allowing the administrator to select his or her deputy administrator. It also calls for the creation of a “NASA commission” with members selected by the White House and Congress that would approve long-term plans that NASA would develop for submission to Congress. That’s somewhat similar to provisions of the Space Leadership Act introduced in September. In that legislation, a board of directors similar to the report’s commission would select three finalists for the positions of NASA administrator and deputy administrator for selection by the president; the administrator would then serve a ten-year term.

The report makes various other, more tactical, recommendations, including the development of a position of “chief executive” for space within the federal government separate from the position of NASA administrator. This person would be responsible for interagency coordination for various space issues, including the space industrial base. Pulham said they explicitly avoided calling this person a “space czar,” but joked he liked the title “Secretary of the Exterior.”

“What would we like to see as a result of this report?” Pulham asked. “I think we’d like to see a national dialogue that leads to NASA becoming a more successful agency than it already is.” That includes plans to brief members of Congress on the report and its recommendations.

This isn’t the only advice NASA and policymakers are getting, even this week. On Wednesday the National Research Council will be releasing its Congressionally-directed report on NASA’s strategic direction. “We are aware of other efforts looking into this. We have spoken to some of the people involved in those efforts,” Pulham said. It remains to be seen, though, whether any of the advice being offered to NASA will make a difference for the agency’s long-term future.

46 comments to A call for a “pioneering” NASA

  • amightywind

    What exactly is “pioneering”?

    ‘Pioneering’ is just the latest ball to be pulled from Washington’s buzzword bingo bin. The word is synonymous with ‘conquest’, so I approve. I hope it knocks ‘commercial crew’ off of the top of NASA’s list of cliches.

    The report, though, stops short of identifying specific missions that should be divested, such as Earth sciences or aeronautics, two areas that some in the past have suggested be taken out of NASA.

    Divestiture of NASA’s portfolio and reform of its budget have been suggested by amightywind for years. Glad to see the Washington establishment begin to accept the obvious.

    On Wednesday the National Research Council will be releasing its Congressionally-directed report on NASA’s strategic direction.

    Another one? Ya know, building a decent rocket and a few science missions isn’t that difficult to plan.

    • Robert G. Oler

      amightywind
      December 5, 2012 at 8:25 am · Reply

      What exactly is “pioneering”?

      ‘Pioneering’ is just the latest ball to be pulled from Washington’s buzzword bingo bin. The word is synonymous with ‘conquest>>

      in what? The Dean Chambers thesaurus …wow RGO

  • James

    Another report, more recommendation, all sound good. Look for more of the same though – no substantive changes. Window dressing at best. Dysfunction to continue.

  • Coastal Ron

    Like in the movie Amadeus where the King tells Amadeus that his new play had “too many notes”, this report has too many recommendations.

    While in general I like the concept of formally delineating when NASA should be handing over responsibility for what it’s been doing to the private sector, I don’t know if they have defined it well enough for politicians to understand. And since politicians are the ones that have to implement these recommendations, that’s why I think they have made it too complicated and it won’t get acted upon.

  • The word is synonymous with ‘conquest’, so I approve.

    Better go find a new thesaurus.

  • Justin Kugler

    I think this report is strongest where it demolishes the myths about NASA’s budget, political support, and management skills.

    The Space Foundation is absolutely right that change has to come from within NASA before the politicians will take their roles seriously. NASA has to make a value proposition to the nation and stop taking said value for granted.

    • Coastal Ron

      Justin Kugler said:

      The Space Foundation is absolutely right that change has to come from within NASA before the politicians will take their roles seriously. NASA has to make a value proposition to the nation and stop taking said value for granted.

      I don’t agree with the first part, that “change has to come from within NASA”. I think NASA’s role would be better if they acted more in the role of consensus builder.

      Keep in mind that there are plenty of interest groups out there that won’t change their minds just because NASA decides to do something. That didn’t work for Griffin’s NASA, and that hasn’t worked for Bolden’s NASA (per a National Research Council study just released). All the different interest groups are going to have to decide to support a plan that may not be perfect for each one of them, but is better than what we have now (i.e. gridlock).

      Then, after a NASA facilitated plan is agreed upon, Congress can be brought in to see if they will fund it. Top-down planning isn’t going to work, it has to be bottom-up.

      However I don’t see that this is an easy task, for multiple reasons. But I don’t see a way forward any other way, and I don’t see the disconnect between Congress and the Administration (whoever it is) for what NASA should be doing (like funding giant unneeded rockets) going away until that happens.

      • Justin Kugler

        I think we’re closer than you describe. The Department of Defense does the Quadrennial Defense Review to advise the White House and Congress, per law, on strategic objectives and military threats. It was created in recognition that the US military strategy would have to change to respond to the new global security environment after the Cold War.

        A similar process for NASA – which could soon have a pilot in the upcoming NRC review of human space flight programs, plans, and priorities – would involve the consensus building that you describe. In any event, NASA has to change itself to not just accommodate or begrudgingly listen, but be the principal actor in such a process.

        • Coastal Ron

          Justin Kugler said:

          I think we’re closer than you describe. The Department of Defense does the Quadrennial Defense Review to advise the White House and Congress…

          I’m not talking about just government agencies that have an interest in what NASA should do in space, but external groups. We have all these special interest groups (including the Space Foundation) that advocate for their own visions of what NASA should do, and they end up influencing politicians too.

          Until the Mars First, Moon Again, Asteroid Next groups (and others) can agree on an exploration blueprint that they can all get behind, we can expect more of the disconnect the NRC is reporting about within NASA. For instance, if someone changes the goal to returning to the Moon, then there will be a faction within NASA that will resist that because it won’t be getting us to Mars. Everyone has external interest groups that support them, so until we get those external interest groups behind one plan, expect division to be the norm at NASA.

          On a sort of related topic – in regards to the NRC report where they talk about NASA employees not supporting NASA’s current asteroid plan, I’ve worked at companies where I didn’t agree with the direction management had laid out (and I’ve almost always been part of management), and my opinion is that you either salute the leader and put your full efforts behind the plan, or you leave and go somewhere else. But dragging your feet and undermining the leadership is a self-fulling prophecy, in that the culture changes to where insurrection is the norm – who the hell wants to be a part of that? /rant

    • Unfortunately, it seems to have turned a blind eye to the pork problem on the Hill.

      • Justin Kugler

        I agree that it is weak on that very problem of what to do once NASA gets its own house in order. I don’t think the proposed five-year Administrator term or politically-appointed advisory committee will help.

  • mike shupp

    “NASA has to make a value proposition to the nation and stop taking said value for granted.”

    What does this mean in English?

    • Robert G. Oler

      Mike Shupp…

      ““NASA has to make a value proposition to the nation and stop taking said value for granted.”

      What does this mean in English?”

      that the value of programs have to be obvious on their face and in some tangible way.

      NASA and HSF advocates generally speak of the value of such effort in ephemeral and metaphoric terms.

      I can tell you the value for cost of a new ATC system or the value for cost of building a booster that brings back the launch business (or part of it) to the US

      what is the value of ISS? What is the value of an EML station?

      American exceptionalism? RGO

    • Justin Kugler

      It means we need to stop taking it for granted that the US should have a space program and start making the case for why we should have a space program, what purpose it should serve, and what demonstrable value is returned for the taxpayer investment.

      The “Pioneering” report does a good job deconstructing the myths that are often promulgated by the space community about the space program’s value and purpose, including science and spinoffs.

      • Coastal Ron

        Justin Kugler said:

        It means we need to stop taking it for granted that the US should have a space program and start making the case for why we should have a space program, what purpose it should serve, and what demonstrable value is returned for the taxpayer investment.

        Well said. Probably than what the S.F. said.

  • James

    “The Space Foundation is absolutely right that change has to come from within NASA before the politicians will take their roles seriously”

    NASA has no idea what is involved with ‘change from within’; I recall after Columbia accident, O’Keefe hired some company to implement ‘culture change’,NASA wide, and Griffin squashed it as one of his first acts as new Administrator; and there was much cheering from within NASA at this.

    Can’t teach an old dog new tricks

    • Justin Kugler

      What would you have NASA or the politicians do, then?

      • Robert G. Oler

        Justin Kugler…it should be NASA…and it should come from the Administrator

        You didnt ask me…but

        1. Require all project managers but particularly ones managing efforts above 400 million dollars to immediately draw up budgets that “they” the managers are accountable for. IE when the project goes over those numbers by say 10 percent per year (or the schedule slides as a result of that) the manager is OUT THE DOOR

        2. Now that we have a budget then attempt to justify “what” that budget accomplishes…

        3. then the administrator should pick a few or all the programs whose cost do not match up with some justification…and end them or at least advocate their end to Congress and the Administration

        Culture change comes from leadership and motivation…you have a director of maintenance who cannot keep the planes flying or explain to you why…they are out the door RGO

        • common sense

          “Culture change comes from leadership and motivation…”

          As unbelievable as it may seem. Not at NASA!

          Not as in the private sector anyway which is one of the reason it is so darn difficult to accomplish anything there.

          FWIW.

      • James

        “What would you have NASA or the politicians do, then?”

        Justin, you have to understand how hopeless it really, really is.

        You are talking about an Agency that is over 50 years old, operating inside the sphere of the WH, Congress, OMB, and all the external stakeholders that can easily pick up the phone, call their lobbyist, who in turn get on the phone with NASA HQ, WH, OMB, Congress, and get what they want.

        All the crap that has happened at NASA that results in hard feelings among all those mentioned is still in existence at NASA, in the background of everything that goes on, and completely impacts the present moment, and future decisions and actions. People may come and go, but the environment lives forever. This is why it does not matter who the leader is, at any level. You can take a fish out of the water and put a new fish in, but if the water is contaminated, it will remain so, even with a new set of fish in the tank.

        There is no room for anything new that would look remotely like a breakthrough of leadership given the environment NASA operates in. Today’s leaders at NASA have risen to where they are because they know how to navigate inside the dysfunction of it all; this makes them successful in their own eyes, but makes no difference to how NASA operates, no matter how well meaning they all are – and most of them are well meaning.

        It is indeed hopeless.

  • max peck

    NASA had a goal, a direction and our whole team was working hard at it- even the congress was aboard approving of it with great support. Then out of no place Obama came along and simply cancelled it. Everyone, who still has a job in the program still feels a collective punch in the gut. That’s why no one is fully getting aboard Obamaspace. Go ahead and flamethrow back at me RGO (it’s like you live her, get a frickin’ life), but what I’m sayin’ is the truth. Too bad some of you can’t handle it

    • common sense

      “what I’m sayin’ is the truth. Too bad some of you can’t handle it”

      Not sure who can, or not, handle *the* truth…

    • Robert G. Oler

      max peck
      December 5, 2012 at 4:58 pm · Reply

      NASA had a goal, a direction and our whole team was working hard at it- even the congress was aboard approving of it with great support. >>

      what you are saying is no more valid then Dean Chambers and his unskewed polls. Cx had no time table, no set cots, not goal in place and time that it could meet.

      Why do you think it was so easy to kill?

      as for a punch in the gut? Get a life. get off technowelfare and try and find a real job. When you get a real one you can lecture me on life. RGO

    • Justin Kugler

      If you really think it was out of nowhere, you weren’t paying attention.

      I quit Constellation in 2008 and switched to Station because the problems were so glaring that I thought it was better to move to a program that was at least flying things in space, even if Griffin got his wish of putting it in the Pacific in 2014.

      My team wasn’t even allowed to work on any lunar simulations because there was no “scope” in the budget for it. Constellation got the axe because it failed to control cost, scope, and schedule, just like the Army lost the Future Combat Systems program – which was ten times larger than CxP – around the same time.

    • JimNobles

      “NASA had a goal, a direction and our whole team was working hard at it- even the congress was aboard approving of it with great support. Then out of no place Obama came along and simply cancelled it.

      Obama cancelled a bad program. I would like to believe any competent President would have cancelled it. Constellation was in such bad shape when the President inherited it that it was essentially D.O.A. Bronco just signed the Death Certificate. Apollo on Steriods should never, ever have been approved in the first place. It was an insult to the American taxpayer and an insult to those Americans who want our country to expand our ideals and way of life off of this planet.

      I’m sorry if you lost your job or in some other way got your feelings hurt but the President was certainly right to end that travesty. I would have killed it the first day I took office.

    • Guest

      NASA had a goal, a direction and our whole team was working hard at it- even the congress was aboard approving of it with great support.

      Yeah, the good old days of Ares I. If you still think that’s going to get you to the Moon, Mars and the asteroids, then Liberty is your rocket. Good luck.

      Constellation was Ares I, and if that was the plan it was cancelled for very good reason. You should be thrilled it lives on in the Obama administration.

  • Another round of “expert” opinions that miss the basic point.

    NASA is a government agency that can only do what Congress tells it to do.

    Congress doesn’t really care what NASA does, so long as it perpetuates jobs with space centers and/or aerospace contractors in their states and districts.

    NASA was created in 1958 to be an aerospace research and development agency. It was never intended to be Starfleet or on the front line of Cold War propaganda. President Kennedy morphed it into something it wasn’t meant to be.

    And ever since then, the nation has been struggling with what to do with this albatross.

    Space exploration, and exploitation, need to be freed from Congress. That means turning it over to the private sector. The rest will take care of itself. NASA needs to go back to its roots and do the cutting-edge research, then turn over that technology to the private sector.

    Conservatives love to deify the wisdom and might of American capitalism. If they really mean it, then they should trust the private sector to take all that cutting-edge technology and use it to create an entirely new economy that no other nation on this planet can rival.

    But they won’t do that, because then they can’t control the pork flowing back to their states and districts.

    The liberals and centrists are just as bad, but they’re not the ones deifying capitalism out of one side of their mouth while perpetuating a government monopoly with the other.

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is about the only one who gets it. And I say that as someone whose politics generally run left-center and categorically disagreees with almost every other position Dana has.

    • Justin Kugler

      Did you read the full report, Stephen? That is precisely what their “Pioneering” model for NASA entails and it directly addresses the “creation myth” that came out of Apollo. The report fully recognizes that 96% of US activity in space is not NASA.

      • What, I’m supposed to read it before I comment on it?!

        • Robert G. Oler

          I have not read it yet either (sorry been busy with an SMS effort for a client)…so well its difficult to comment on the actual statements…but I would say this

          In large measure I agree with everything you (Stephen) said in an earlier post…the trick is how to break that?

          Just a new mission or a New slogan wont do it.

          The problem comes from the fact that James said “Age has set in , and as a government agency is set in its ways, though it struggles with those ‘ways’ ”

          the most recent chance to “fix” NASA was under Bush43 when the powers that be in the administration got a hint from the Columbia issue that the shuttle was to dangerous to fly. Ending the shuttle was a good move, but then handing another large expensive open ended mission to NASA was simply feeding a different brand of ice cream to a fat person.

          Obama is probably going to get a chance to fix NASA as part of the general rethink of the US government that is going to occur as we go off “the fiscal whatever it is” thing.

          There is going to be a rethink of almost every US government non entitlement effort (and those will eventually come) and what Bolden or someone should have is a reorg plan ready to go and advocate.

          I dont care what mission you give the current folks at NASA…under the structure there, the promotion to manager system ANYTHING is more or less doomed to fall under the mediocrity of the people there. It is like the shuttle, I dont care what you say; the culture never changed from Challenger; it just got more sophisticated in terms of disguising itself.

          I will have to read (dah) the actual report and plan to do just that…but if all the thing has in mind is a new mission…it wont work…again I need to read it. RGO

          • Robert G. Oler wrote:

            In large measure I agree with everything you (Stephen) said in an earlier post…the trick is how to break that?

            Natural selection.

            If NewSpace can take over LEO, then the current HSF program will have no reason to exist.

            In that vision, it’s SpaceX-Boeing-Sierra Nevada flying people to Bigelow habitats, Planetary Resources exploiting asteroids, and Virgin Galactic/XCOR handling suborbital adventure tourism flights.

            Why would the government needs NASA?

            We’ll find out more today about the Golden Spike Company and whether anyone serious is behind it.

            Once Virgin/XCOR start taking customers up for joyrides, in my opinion that will start the discussion about why we need a government space taxi service. By the end of the decade, it’s possible that thousands of humans will have been to space, even if only for a few minutes.

            That’s what will transform NASA.

    • James

      As I’ve said before, NASA needs to get out of the development business. No more formulating and implementing missions. Simple R&D. That’s it. Its not set up to succeed anymore in a fashion similar to what Space X can do now with one hand tied behind it’s back. When NASA was young, like SPace X is now, it did amazing things at reasonable prices. Age has set in , and as a government agency is set in its ways, though it struggles with those ‘ways’ . Its now a pet thing of Congress critters. Lots of well meaning and bright and smart people too.

  • mike shupp

    “It means we need to stop taking it for granted that the US should have a space program and start making the case for why we should have a space program, what purpose it should serve, and what demonstrable value is returned for the taxpayer investment.”

    My nose is considerably harder than yours. Look around and you might notice that most nations get along quite happily without manned space programs, or substantial planetary astronomy programs, or earth observational satellite programs. Could the US do just as well if it eliminated say 16 billion bucks a year from the NASA budget? Pretty obviously yes, especially if we consider this leaves untouched the 40-50 billion per year the US spends on classified space programs — the ones which actually matter to Congress, DoD, and the White House. Basically, except for climate monitoring, nothing NASA does is absolutely essential — and most space buffs these days are conservative types who totally despise the idea of global warming, so it isn’t clear we can justify a couple of billion for that either.

    What else seems dispensible? Professional football; tax exempt status for churches and partisan political think tanks; broad interpretations of the 2nd Amendment; public support for private schools, including homeschooling; much copyright and patent legislation. For starters. However, that’s not especially germane.

    Does that mean I’d like to close NASA down, and totally oppose space programs? Not at all. I’d like more and larger and much more ambitious space programs, but I have the honesty to realize that is personal preference rather than something dictated by God or biz-speak handwaving.

  • MrEarl

    Four years of Obama, Holdren, Garver and Bolden and we’re right back to where we started.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/12/spacex-foot-eelv-door-double-launch-contract-win/

    two points stand out

    First I think Goresat is finally going to fly…wow…right wing nashes teeth even more

    Second there is a lot of spare mass on the heavy…amateur radio satellite time RGO

  • Guest

    amateur radio satellite time

    I would be happy with my own personal packet relay satellite myself, and it will be interesting to see how the FCC and ITU begin to adjust to these new licensing realities. Already the ITU is screaming about the internet.

    Maybe that is what they mean by ‘pioneering’.

  • Brian M

    I think that both the Pioneering and NRC reports say what some of us have been saying for a long time:

    (1) NASA budget has been pretty stable; its been going down a bit in recent years mainly because NASA seems to be more wasteful than ever
    (2) NASA has adequate support from the President, Congress and the American people; they do not need to be ‘stressing’ that a lot more support is required before they can make plans

    Most significantly:

    (3) NASA is supposed to be the civilian leader in this field of space flight. If NASA is going to lead, they need to have a vision, a strategy, a plan. Sure they need to gain some concurrence from their management (President), from the funding organizations (Congress), from the people who’s taxes they are spending, but it is NASA’s job to figure out how to move forward. No one else is smarter than NASA is and no one else is going to figure it out for them. The common excuse I keep hearing over and over again is that NASA can only do what they are told. This is nonsense.

    The issue is lack of NASA leadership. NASA leadership needs to be fixed. They are the problem.

  • Littrow

    It really comes back to who, what sort of people are the NASA leaders today? Almost all came out of the operations organizations. They did their best and were very successful at eliminating people that were showing promise who came out of ‘competing’ organizations.

    Bolden-Flight Ops. Gerstenmaier-and virtually all of his underlings-Mission Ops. Most of the lower echelons in ISS, the only organization left have never done anything except ISS project management, and since that has included almost no US hardware there is not much experience in those ranks. This bunch has managed to cause the collapse of US human spaceflight.

    As we’ve said right along, these folks are usually pretty good at carrying out orders, following procedures and checklists. Their hardware was designed and built decades ago before they came on the scene. Any recent hardware was turned over to the internationals to supply. The last 15 or 20 years they’ve done a fine job of flying Shuttle missions and assembling and operating the ISS-just as long as nothing goes wrong. Is it any wonder that Orion has spent
    billions of dollars with nothing to show for it?

    But strategy, vision, concepts…these people are lost.

    The Space Foundation report says that more attention needs to be paid to stabilizing the management and they suggest moving people out after a period of time. I did not find anything in their report that said they needed to ensure some level of continuity of technical functions. Some of us worked our entire careers, often for 20 or 30 years, often multiple programs in functions like payload integration or safety or GFE hardware design, etc, but as new programs have come in in recent years they were each sure they would do a much better job if they simply could establish their own organization without any of the ‘undue influences’ of past programs, so instead of being a learning organization that makes maximum use of past experience, every time there is a new project in human spaceflight they try to reinvent the wheel. Any wonder why its unreasonably expensive? It was not this way through the early years of Station in the mid-80s. At that time we looked up to and respected the people with the experience and they were usually the leaders. Now I look at the managers in human space flight and I know they are there because they had a friend in the right place, and not because they have any prior applicable experience, or education, or demonstrated ability…

    Well, you folks have done us in now. Good luck trying to rebuild what we used to have.

    • Coastal Ron

      Littrow said:

      Good luck trying to rebuild what we used to have.

      What did we used to have? Disposable architectures that could only be supported by massive government funding?

      And how many decades ago was that? Five decades ago?

      You need to reset your expectations – our future human space exploration will be supported by private companies, and funded by no more than $8B per year for hardware development and sustaining operations.

      Why so little? Because no “National Imperative” is forcing us to spend more. Don’t believe me? Go stand in the middle of a crowded public place and ask people if they would be willing to pay more taxes to go back to the Moon, or go to Mars (or wherever).

      And that’s also the reason there is no perceived “leadership”. You need a recognized problem for a solution to be perceived as “leadership”, but there is no problem. Apollo was a political solution, the Shuttle was a try at building infrastructure for what they thought was going to be a lot of payloads going up, and the ISS was built to figure out how we’re going to be able to live and work in space. Only Apollo was perceived as “leadership”, and even back then it was pretty controversial.

      Human space exploration is, in business startup parlance, a “nice to have”, not a “gotta have” solution for a “problem” that doesn’t really exist. And Congress is, in reality, funding a human space exploration hobby. Until it can graduate up to a “National Imperative”, all the club members will keep trying to push the club in their own favorite direction.

      My $0.02

  • Jim

    “What did we used to have? Disposable architectures that could only be supported by massive government funding?”

    I disagree.

    We had a lot of capability, a lot of infrastructure and a lot of capable people. It was being poorly managed. We were not producing much. We were spending a lot of money.

    Now we have a lot of laid off workers. We are spending as much money as ever. We are producing nothing.

    • Coastal Ron

      Jim wrote:

      We had a lot of capability, a lot of infrastructure and a lot of capable people.

      Be specific. What capability? What infrastructure?

      Are you talking about Apollo or the Shuttle?

      If you’re going to say the Shuttle, then first start by outlining how the Shuttle would have been changed to meet NASA’s new safety requirements (the ones CCiCap have to meet). Then describe what the Shuttle was supposed to do after the completion of the ISS – what value would taxpayers be getting for the $3B/year it took to keep the Shuttle system going.

      As far as capable people, other than the USA Shuttle reconditioning workers, there hasn’t been any major changes in the aerospace industry. I could even argue that SpaceX and Orbital have actually been expanding their employment, so overall it’s probably not been a change headcount wise. Besides, unless you’re going to argue for a continuously funded government space worker program, I’m fine with the private sector managing the size of the workforce – the fear of being laid off is a great motivator to keep your skills in peak shape.

      We are producing nothing.

      I could go on and on about how wasteful the SLS and MPCV programs are, so if you mean them, I’m in agreement. But otherwise you have your eyes closed to the rest of the aerospace industry. Small companies like Masten, Armadillo and XCOR are doing great stuff, Orbital Sciences and Sierra Nevada are mid-sized companies with big company goals, and SpaceX is fundamentally changing the cost structure for doing things in space. Then there is Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Stratolaunch, Planetary Resources, Golden Spike, the Google Lunar X Prize and lots of other interesting endeavors that could turn into something good. These are exciting times, and I’ve been around a while.

      Maybe you just don’t know where to look?

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