NASA, White House

Bolden: search for new deputy administrator ongoing

The position of NASA Deputy Administrator has been vacant since Lori Garver left the agency in early September to become general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association. There has, since then, been occasional speculation about who might be picked to take the job, with some wondering if the position—which, like the administrator, requires a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation—might simply be left open through the end of the administration.

On Thursday, however, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said there is an active search underway to pick a new deputy administrator, although the ultimate decision is out of his hands. “The search is on,” he said during a question-and-answer session with attendees of a “NASA Social” event at the Kennedy Space Center prior to last night’s launch of the TDRS-L communications satellite there. “I don’t pick the deputy administrator. Like me, the deputy administrator is a presidential appointee. We’ve been through several candidates and everything, and my hope is that we’re narrowing in on a final candidate.”

Bolden didn’t disclose who the candidates for the position are, or when he expected the administration to formally nominate a deputy administrator. “I will say there are some very, very promising prospects out there, so I’m excited to get a deputy whenever they can get around to it,” he said.

122 comments to Bolden: search for new deputy administrator ongoing

  • DocM

    So would Jeff Greason ;)

  • Vladislaw

    Someone who is not a monster rocket fan and who sees commercial space as an ally not the enemy.

    • Bennett In Vermont

      That pretty much describes the last DA, doesn’t it?

      • Vladislaw

        It sure does and we need another one.

        • Bennett In Vermont

          I agree. What we need is someone who knows where the bodies are buried and isn’t afraid to use the info to blackmail the usual suspects.

          That, or someone who could convince Shelby et al that jobs working on a Nautilus type spacecraft and fuel depot infrastructure are just as valid (and so much more rewarding for the taxpayer dollars spent) as the current jobs that produce nothing of value (such as SLS).

          I can dream, and I do.

  • guest

    Charlie needs a lot of help.
    He is not a communicator.
    He is not a strategist.
    He is not a technical expert.
    I gather he does not have much of a historical perspective of what NASA or even human space flight is about.
    I don’t think he has any relationship with Obama or Holdren.
    He needs someone who can do these things.

    • Hiram

      “Charlie needs a lot of help.
      He is not …”

      In retrospect, one wonders why he was chosen. He’s a nice guy, and perhaps a good leader. He probably has some historical perspective on HSF. But NASA needs more than that for an Administrator. Looking back, Dan Goldin probably had the best combination of these qualities. Sean O’Keefe and Mike Griffin, just a few each. Sean was a fiscal strategist and had good relations with the White House. Mike was a technical whiz, and he considered himself a strategist. Now, when an Administration can’t express a cogent picture of what human spaceflight is for, perhaps what is most needed is a communicator who can. That’s what at least this Administration has done. We don’t really have a clear picture of what human spaceflight is about so …. over to you, Charlie!”

      • Hiram

        Not that Charlie is a good communicator, but that’s what this White House really needed in that position.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “In retrospect, one wonders why he was chosen.”

        Because he’s a pushover, and that’s what certain Senators wanted/needed in the Administrator’s seat this go-around.

        • Robert G Oler

          Charlie has many flaws but greatest among them, and he showed this in his Marine career was an inability to do more then “fix” organizations…he really does not have the ability to innovate how the organization should be used.

          The problem at NASA is that the Apollo model no longer works on any level…but the forces that it created are determined to keep it going and Charlie is part of that model

          Robert G. Oler

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Mike was a technical whiz, and he considered himself a strategist.”

        Budgetarily/programmatically, Griffin was an awful strategist. But I’d also question his technical wizardry given the problem-plagued Ares I, and the continuing problems on Orion/MPCV. For all his degrees and positions, Griffin’s only hands-on aerospace development management experience was in a couple SDI smallsats. He should never have dictated multi-ten billion dollar LV and human capsule design decisions from such a limited base. In terms of his engineering, I’d argue that Griffin was out-of-touch, overreaching, and arrogant.

        • Hiram

          “Budgetarily/programmatically, Griffin was an awful strategist.”

          I agree completely. As I said, he considered himself one, because he tried so hard to do strategic thinking. But it wasn’t very good strategic thinking. He had a mission, and that mission was to colonize and plunder (I guess) the Moon. That was Constellation. In the same way, his technical wizardry was mainly justified by the diplomas he had on his wall. As to his ability as a communicator, his arrogance minimized that. It was all about HIS strategy.

          I’m not so sure about him being a pushover, though. His stubbornness was well documented. I have to assume that he was considered qualified by Congress because he really signed on to the visionary spirit of VSE, and his interpretation of that vision included an “Apollo on steroids”. Now, Apollo was mainly about geopolitical power, and Apollo on steroids looked wonderfully powerful. Didn’t hurt that his interpretation of the vision included a muscular rocket that would keep key states in the money.

          I think the lesson we learned from Mike is that diplomas on the wall and stars in your eyes won’t necessarily get us where we need to go.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “I’m not so sure about him being a pushover”

            My “pushover” remark was in reference to Bolden, e.g., one day Orion is terminated, next day it’s a rescue capsule for ISS, next day it’s reincarnated as MPCV. Whereas Griffin was outdated, stubborn, and arrogant, Bolden is flaky, wishy-washy, and a pushover. They’re both underqualified in terms of actual, hands-on aerospace development experience in a time when NASA is tasked with big development projects for the first time in decades.

          • Malmesbury

            “I have to assume that he (Griffin) was considered qualified by Congress because he really signed on to the visionary spirit of VSE, and his interpretation of that vision included an “Apollo on steroids”. Now, Apollo was mainly about geopolitical power, and Apollo on steroids looked wonderfully powerful.”

            True. Cue the shrinks on why all this “power” stuff sold so well….

        • James

          And he gambled , incorrectly, that if he spent a ton of money and showed Congress hardware, Cx would not be cancel-able. Wrong. That gamble drove his hardware decisions.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “Even the most glittering reigns must come to and end. But who will follow? Who indeed?”

    Francis Urquhart

  • guest

    “Now, when an Administration can’t express a cogent picture of what human spaceflight is for, perhaps what is most needed is a communicator who can.”

    I’ve noticed that the top NASA people today have essentially no communications ability.

    It was not true in the past. Webb, Seamans, Mueller, Paine, Fletcher, Beggs, Goldin, O’Keefe; they were Administrators, AAs and deputies who all excelled at communicating.

    Usually if an executive cannot think and talk they know enough to get a ghost writer who can put thoughts and words together for them, and then they sign their names.

    NASA has been in this non-sequitor stage for many years in which the top people cannot express a cogent picture of what human spaceflight is for, and neither can any of their underlings.

    How did they get so many top echelon managers who have none of the typical executive qualities?

    You might say they are all top echelon engineers and they are too engrossed in their technical functions and that is why they are unable to communicate; but you’d be wrong. I cannot think of any of the top NASA people who have done much more than be an astronaut; astronauts excel at following checklists and procedures. Once in awhile they blurt out “beautiful view” or “magnificent desolation”. Not much significant development work has been going on either-in fact the lack of technical development progress has been a critical issue.

    • Egad

      the top people cannot express a cogent picture of what human spaceflight is for, and neither can any of their underlings.

      I just so should know better than to get involved in this because it keeps being discussed over and over and over, but…

      Well, maybe they can’t express it because nobody, as yet, can. What, indeed, is HSF for?

      National pride/soft power? Maintaining an interest in STEM? Hedging the bets on human survival if things go bad on Earth? Scientific research? Entertainment? Mining the as-yet-notional riches Out There if they can be shown to exist?

      All these, IMO, have some amount of validity, but they’re all a hard sell in the current political and economic circumstances. What political animal is going to step up to one or more of those?

      • Coastal Ron

        guest said:

        NASA has been in this non-sequitor stage for many years in which the top people cannot express a cogent picture of what human spaceflight is for, and neither can any of their underlings.

        OK, I’m kind of with Egad on this – what is your cogent picture of what human spaceflight is for?

        • Egad

          What, indeed, is HSF for?

          Being a thoroughly secular humanist type myself, I should probably blush to say that I think that an important component of support for HSF is, and rightly so, spiritual. Or idealistic if you don’t like the s word. Read Arthur Clarke, watch Sagan’s Cosmos, check out the popularity of SF movies, just read what people say on sites like this. It’s clear that, apologetic(*) efforts to come up with “practical” reasons for HSF aside, there’s a clear wish to do it for its own sake, for spiritual/idealistic reasons, and those are what keeps its support up.

          Pork also aside, of course.

          (*) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologetics

      • Vladislaw

        The purpose of human spaceflight is to expand humanity’s playground and it’s economic sphere of activity outward. Pretty simple really.

        • Hiram

          “The purpose of human spaceflight is to expand humanity’s playground and it’s economic sphere of activity outward. Pretty simple really.”

          Playgrounds and spheres? Yep, that’s pretty simple. Also overwhelmingly simplistic. Playgrounds for who, may I ask? Is this where you get to play with your fellow 1%-ers? Or maybe your fellow 0.00001%-ers? You can draw a sphere anywhere you want. Many would suggest that we include the ocean floor in our economic sphere. This isn’t about national needs. It’s about cowboy astronauts.

          No political animal with an ounce of sense would step up to these purposes. (No, Newt Gingrich doesn’t have an ounce of sense with regard to space, though he is a very skilled political animal.)

          As to spiritual and idealistic reasons, get real. We’re talking hundreds of billions of dollars of federal investment. Maybe we can form a church of space exploration, and make a killing on tax deductions? Or maybe we can amend the Constitution with somber words about playgrounds and spheres? Seriously, though, what we do need to do is put expansion of humanity into the national zeitgeist. It isn’t there now.

          • Vladislaw

            Playgrounds are for everyone. We explore for countless resources on earth, we will explore for countless resources in space, we never question why we do one but ALWAYS question when the suggestion for the other is made. ALL species explore for habit that their species can exploit for a competitive advantage.

            The human species will move outward. We have 60,000 years of archealogical evidence that supports the idea that the human species moves where there are abundant resources.

            The question to ask is .. why the hell does anything think the answer has to be more complex than that?

            • Hiram

              “We explore for countless resources on earth, we will explore for countless resources in space, we never question why we do one but ALWAYS question when the suggestion for the other is made.”

              Maybe because in space it’s a bejillion times the cost of doing it on Earth?

              “The human species will move outward. We have 60,000 years of archealogical evidence that supports the idea that the human species moves where there are abundant resources.”

              And as of this date, precisely none such abundant resources have been identified in space. That’s not a reason not to keep looking, but you sure don’t need to send people to look. We have 60,000 years of archeaological evidence that supports the idea that people simply don’t go if they don’t need to go.

              “The question to ask is .. why the hell does anything think the answer has to be more complex than that?”

              Hmmm. Well, as I said, because that answer doesn’t make a hell of a lot of fiscal or programmatic sense. But I guess that shouldn’t stop us.

              • Vladislaw

                Well of course it doesn’t make fiscal sense, especially considering the way congress has choosed to fund it for the last 50 years of NASA and the percent of the budget it has commanded proves that.

                You seemed to miss a point, I didn’t put a timeline on my answer. I said the reason why it will happen, not the day and date it will happen.

      • E.P. Grondine

        Hi Egad -

        The usual devious analogy repeated once again.

        The primary reason is finding the iceberg before it hits the ship,
        and changing the iceberg’s course or blowing it up,
        as the course of the ship can not be changed.

        Its not about lifeboats for a few wealthy passengers.

    • James

      “The top people cannot express a cogent picture of what human spaceflight is for, and neither can any of their underlings.”

      That’s because they are not ‘top’ people.

      Top people gravitate to Industry where they can be rewarded for their talents, and not just pay, but the exercise of power, and autonomy.

      • James

        And any top person with an ounce of desire to innovate, and actually do something outside the box, will be frustrated in government, where only when disaster occurs are there changes

    • Hiram

      “I’ve noticed that the top NASA people today have essentially no communications ability.”

      It should be understood that the reason that poor communication skills at NASA hurt U.S. space exploration so much is because the people with the best communication skills, the elected officials above them, have little to communicate about why space is important. Especially the White House. The White House shouldn’t need to explain space implementation strategy, as in propulsion, navigation, and life support, but should be able to understand and express what the basic goals are, and how a strategy serves those goals. There have been many examples over the years, but Obama is largely silent. Handicapped in this way, the White House shrugs their shoulders, and tosses the ball to NASA leadership — as in, you guys sorta know what you’re doing, so explain it, and get the press off our backs! Of course, they’re tossing that ball to people who are congenitally unskilled in communicating national needs. That’s NOT what they were trained to do.

      In other words, whose job is it to explain to the public why space is important? NASA can help develop rationale, but that explanation has to come out of the mouths of our leaders. BushII at least recognized that need, and developed the VSE. That was marvelous. But then he walked away from it, and tossed the ball to Mike.

      What we should be looking for in a NASA leader is someone who can get the White House and Congress in the saddle about space exploration and really communicating about it. Let’s face it. If HSF is about geopolitical exceptionalism, our leadership should be all over it. That’s why skill in political maneuvering should be high on the list of requirements, in the absence of skill in communicating.

      • E.P. Grondine

        Hi Hiram –

        While you are having a vey tough time understanding this,
        here goes:

        Its the message, not the messengers.

        NASA was founded on the premise of an Earth-like Mars,
        and low space transportation costs.

        It turns out that NASA has a vitally necessary role,
        one which was completely unforeseen at the time of its founding.

        While I appreciate his pioneering work in this field some 50 years ago,
        depending on class of impact,
        Morisson’s impact estimates are off by one to three orders of magnitude.

        • Hiram

          “NASA was founded on the premise of an Earth-like Mars,
          and low space transportation costs.”

          Bzzzap! NASA was founded by the precepts in the Space Act, and you won’t find any premises about Earth-like Mars or human space flight in that Act.

          You might have a tough time understanding this, but the vitally important role, which is saving the Earth from asteroid impacts, is as much one of national defense by the DoD as it is about space exploration by NASA. In fact, ground based observatories funded by NSF play a huge role in that protection. NASA doesn’t own asteroid impact mitigation, and it may be just as well, for the preservation of the world, that it doesn’t.

          • E.P. Grondine

            Why hi there, Hiram –

            I’m sorry you never went to Disneyland, and never had a television to watch Disney’s shows.

            Why do you want the DoD to take its eyes off of terrestrial threats?

            You know, I type with one finger on my left hand, so I get real tired of dealing with repeated rationalizations based on factual mistatement.

            While NASA’s current course is not the one I would have chosen myself, given where NASA is and we are, ARM is the best of the options, as near as I can estimate.

            • Hiram

              “Why do you want the DoD to take its eyes off of terrestrial threats?”

              I don’t believe I ever said that it should. The DoD does many missions in the interest of greater technology development. Identifying and tracking hard-to-see objects is very much a DoD capability need. So such a careful asteroid survey would very much be a win-win proposition for DoD. It will lead to better eyes being put on terrestrial threats. Infrared sensor capability for faint source detection, which would be a key element of this work, has been pioneered by DoD support. The DoD has FAR better IR sensor capabilities than the astronomical community, for example. DoD has made strong investments in space infrared detection technology — e.g. MSX, SPIRIT. As to interest in potential impactors, the SDIO/AFGL program on background characterization gave a lot of support to updating the catalog of asteroids and modelling of comet tail irradiance. Besides, what “terrestrial threat” mitigation was served by Clementine, eh? Doing a responsible celestial survey for threatening asteroids would consume a really really tiny part of the defense budget .

              I get tired of people making stuff up about what I say.

              As noted repeatedly in this forum, ARM has NOTHING to do with mitigation of asteroid threats. It doesn’t deal with asteroids that are even remotely threatening, and the technologies it develops won’t be useful to mitigate the threat from one that is. The money spent on putting footprints on a rocks would be FAR better spent on real mitigation. It would be something, wouldn’t it, if Earth gets hit by a big one while astronauts are leaving those footprints? You need to do a better job of estimation and stop with the repeated rationalizations.

              Disney shows? Ah, the story of Aladar, you mean? Yes, there are good lessons there about how your island can get wiped out by a celestial rock.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Moving past your mistatements about ARM –

                While what you say about DoD sensors and observation facilities is certainly currently true..

                …as no one in the international community trusts or wants to trust the US DoD to provide them with impact warning, that responsibility will have to fall to NASA.

                As far as your estimate of the impact hazard goes, it is based on 50 year old theoretical work. The field has moved on.

                If you look at NASA’s recent performance, they suspended operation of the two remaining sensors on WISE, and it took a hell of a lot to get them operating again. And where are the Hubble images of 73P’s most recent pass?

                I’m sorry that the solar system does not work the way you and your friends imagined it does. The rest of us will move on, with your support or without your support. With the US leading the effort, or not. And whether you or I are here or not.

              • Hiram

                “no one in the international community trusts or wants to trust the US DoD to provide them with impact warning”

                Since 1960, when the Soviets first started aiming their missles at us, we placed COMPLETE trust in the DoD to provide us with impact warning. But it’s different for rocks? Hmmm. So let me get this straight. When the USAF Pan-STARRS telescope, probably the best ground-based detector of asteroids, sees the danger of an impact event, we shouldn’t want to believe it? When the DoD sees the possibility that an incoming rock will produce a blast over even an unfriendly nation that will mimic a nuclear explosion, dramatically upsetting delicate global tensions, we don’t want to believe it?

                “As far as your estimate of the impact hazard goes, it is based on 50 year old theoretical work. The field has moved on.”

                MY estimate of the impact hazard? Where did you get that? Making stuff up again, I guess. My comments here referred entirely to the non-importance of using astronauts to visit rocks in the interest of impact mitigation. If we’re going to do that mitigation, and as I said, it is vitally important to do, let’s do it right.

                “If you look at NASA’s recent performance …”

                That’s why I said that NASA doesn’t own asteroid impact mitigation, and it may be just as well, for the preservation of the world, that it doesn’t. Glad to hear you seem to agree.

                As to the solar system not working the same way for everyone, and with respect to the thread topic, which was about the communication ability of NASA, I suppose they could just make stuff up like you do. But you’re right. It’s time for the rest of us to move on.

  • If I could choose someone, it would be recently retired astronaut Mark Kelly, but of course he’s tending to Gabby Giffords so he’s unavailable.

    No matter who you get, there will always be a flaw. Retired astronauts will be viewed as biased towards human spaceflight. Someone from the astronomy community, the opposite. OldSpace aerospace executives can’t be trusted, and many engineers would just be into the toys without a real vision.

    At the same time, you need someone who can footsy with Congress, and that’s a losing proposition. Congress wants someone who will throw lots of pork at their states and districts.

    I’m starting to think that NASA as currently constructed is obsolete. Maybe it needs to be broken up and go back to the old NACA days. It’s probably a bad idea, but a deconstructed NASA might cut down on the porking. I’m open to your thoughts.

    Anyway, Mark Kelly would have Gabby Giffords to help him with Congress, but I don’t see them leaving Tucson with her health the way it is … Hey, what about Mark and Gabby as an administrator/deputy team, health permitting? You can pick who you want to be administrator and who would be deputy.

    • Robert G Oler

      well the messengers are pretty flawed but they dont have much to work with

      What has been invested in human spacelight since Apollo? In constant dollars what maybe oh 300 billion?

      and what do we have to show for it? Six people, ony two Americans in a space station doing??????

      RGO

    • The Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords who thought that canceling Constellation was such a terrible idea? That Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords?

  • common sense

    How about a former CEO of a large Defense Contractor with the proper view on commercial very thing, not just commercial crew. NASA is in the process of changing and partnerships and commercial approaches are the new way. But you also need someone with the proper connection in Congress, some one *they* trust.

    Norm Augustine?

    • James

      Anyone from Industry that would be competent to run such a large organization, or be the Deputy of said organization, will not want to take a pay cut, nor want to not be able to exercise the power they’re used to exercising.

      Unless if said Industry person has already retired from Industry, and would take the job out of a misplaced loyalty to Space Flight

    • Hiram

      “How about a former CEO of a large Defense Contractor …”

      I have to guess that a person taken from the top of a large aerospace contractor organization is going to want to run NASA as the top of that organization. But they’re different jobs. NASA is run by the Administration and Congress, and such an I’m-the-boss person is probably going to be aggressively pushing in what are ultimately unconstructive ways. The job isn’t about making decisions for the nation, but helping to develop strategy that is consistent with administration and congressional sensitivities and priorities, and creating opportunities for the White House and Congress to speak approvingly of the plan. So while the managerial expertise of such a person would be of great value, they’d have to change their leadership style a bit to really make it work.

      A prospective candidate for NASA Administrator should have at least one question to ask of the White House. Can I be there to help make you look good? Bolden hasn’t done that, because Obama frankly hasn’t let him. Our presidents don’t talk about space. They congratulate astronauts, and smile at new technology, but how much do they say about why what we’re doing is important? Do they even try? Look at it this way. NASA uses 0.5% of the federal budget. Does anyone think that our presidents even come close to spending 0.5% of their time talking cogently about space?

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Norm Augustine?”

      At 78, he’s probably too old, and arguably overqualified for the Deputy’s slot anyway. He would have been interesting as an Administrator at the right time, probably steering NASA away from STS-derived to EELV-derived for a VSE HLV. Might have saved enough for a lander or other real exploration hardware.

      Tom Young is another veteran who would have been a good Administrator ten years ago. But he’s also long in the tooth, and unlike Augustine, has become very conservative in his old age.

      Unless the White House decides to do battle again on SLS/MPCV, I don’t think the Deputy’s slot really matters for the remainder of this Administration. But honestly, I don’t know who would be a good candidate for the Administrator or Deputy chairs after the election. Someone who’s not stuck in the 1960s, capable of measured risk-taking, and who can work with Congress without being their lapdog. Not sure anyone fits that Venn diagram.

      • Coastal Ron

        Dark Blue Nine said:

        Unless the White House decides to do battle again on SLS/MPCV, I don’t think the Deputy’s slot really matters for the remainder of this Administration.

        I agree. And I think they also want to preserve the gains they have made with the ISS and Commercial Crew, so going to battle against the SLS/MPCV factions might upset things too much. By the time the next President takes office Commercial Crew will be close enough to be a reality, and future of the ISS will have already been decided to some point past 2020.

        That is unless this Administration can somehow create a strong case for going beyond LEO with humans. Something that provides clarity beyond the usual space enthusiast reasons.

        But I don’t see that happening.

        So far no one has been able to do that for non-political reasons, including the space communities who bear a significant portion of the responsibility for defining such reasons. THEY know more than others what possibilities lie beyond LEO, yet as a whole the various space communities have utterly FAILED to rally around a cohesive message or reason that our politicians can understand.

        Blaming politicians for a lack of vision ignores the real problem.

        • Hiram

          “Blaming politicians for a lack of vision ignores the real problem.”

          I’d put it somewhat differently. I blame politicians for not being able to communicate any vision for space. They are communicators and consensus builders. That’s how they got where they are. They don’t have to come up with that vision themselves. But we spend a large amount of money on space, and politicians ought to be able to articulate why we’re doing so. “Space communities” may know more than others what possibilities lie beyond LEO, but most appear totally clueless how those possibilities pertain to national needs. Politicians can see right through that. Many of these “communities” are living in a fantasyland of some sci fi novel.

          I too agree about the irrelevance of the DA at this time. Charlie Boldin needed help in coordination with Congress, during the various policy rollouts that have happened over this administration. Garver was supposed to bring that coordination. She herself has some vision, but was ineffective in doing these rollouts, many of which took Congress completely by surprise, the latest of which is ARM. But Congress has taken advantage of that lack of coordination in manhandling the agency, notably in the imposition of SLS. There are unlikely to be more major NASA policy rollouts in Obama’s remaining years in office. The only incentive for seeking the DA position now might be to inherit the administratorship when Boldin retires along with Obama, assuming a Clinton presidency. One might keep an eye out for even vague linkages between a newly selected DA and the Clinton machine.

          • Coastal Ron

            Hiram said:

            I blame politicians for not being able to communicate any vision for space.

            And where should that “vision for space” come from? Who are they waiting for to tell them what to communicate?

            “They are communicators and consensus builders. That’s how they got where they are.”

            I agree that they should be communicators and consensus builders, but especially in today’s political environment that doesn’t happen much. I hope that will change, but I don’t know when it will.

            They don’t have to come up with that vision themselves.

            I do agree with that. Which again begs the question – who does come up with the vision? Who are the politicians waiting for to tell them what the “vision for space” is?

            “Space communities” may know more than others what possibilities lie beyond LEO, but most appear totally clueless how those possibilities pertain to national needs.

            I don’t disagree, but considering the possibilities of who would have the knowledge and interest to propose various “visions for space”, the space community is probably the only group that can make sound proposals.

            Politicians can see right through that.

            Yes, because they too are good at being clueless… ;-)

            Many of these “communities” are living in a fantasyland of some sci fi novel.

            Regardless, if they want to see anything meaningful done in space during their lifetimes, they need to work on creating consensus with the space community as a whole. I don’t see any other ways forward, do you?

            • Hiram

              “And where should that “vision for space” come from? Who are they waiting for to tell them what to communicate?”

              The vision is not about space technology or engineering. So the President and Congress don’t need a space agency to tell them what the vision should be. They need a space agency to tell them how to do it once we decide we want to do it. Is it in the national interest to control the Moon? Is it in the national interest to plunder asteroids? Is it in the national interest to colonize Mars? Geez, this isn’t that hard. Either it is or it isn’t. Tell us why, for goodness sakes, and make it sound important if it is.

              “I agree that they should be communicators and consensus builders, but especially in today’s political environment that doesn’t happen much.”

              Then, very simply, you can kiss ambitious U.S. plans for space goodbye. You can’t ask the engineers, scientists, and technologists to be national leaders. If national leaders can’t be national leaders, we’re sunk.

              “…the space community is probably the only group that can make sound proposals.”

              Careful, now. A “sound proposal” isn’t one that is implementable, but one that serves real national needs. The idea that because we know exactly how to put an outpost on the Moon doesn’t mean that it’s a “sound proposal”. Apollo served a real national need, which was beating the crap out of the Soviets. That was a sound proposal. Did NASA come up with that vision? No, I don’t think it did. But it figured out how to make it happen. It may well have suggested that we might be able to do it.

              “Yes, because they too are good at being clueless… ;-)”

              I’ll second you there.

              “if they want to see anything meaningful done in space during their lifetimes, they need to work on creating consensus with the space community as a whole.”

              Press reset and try again. Consensus in the space community is nice to have, but if that consensus isn’t communicatable by our leaders as something that serves an important national need and improves the quality of life, it’s toast. I really don’t give a crap if Bob Zubrin makes peace with Paul Spudis. Part of the problem is that the space community is defining the problem as shooting humans into outer space, and less why it’s important to taxpayers to do so.

              • Coastal Ron

                Hiram said:

                The vision is not about space technology or engineering.

                I understand your point, but certainly the failure of Constellation in fulfilling the VSE was because of the technology and engineering side of things, so I think it does play a part. But overall I agree with you for the high level goal.

                Is it in the national interest to control the Moon? Is it in the national interest to plunder asteroids? Is it in the national interest to colonize Mars? Geez, this isn’t that hard. Either it is or it isn’t. Tell us why, for goodness sakes, and make it sound important if it is.

                And so far the answer to your questions would be “No it isn’t”, or at the most “No, not yet”.

                Apollo filled the need of showing we were better than the USSR. The Shuttle was going to fulfill the need we had for transporting cargo and people to LEO, even though it never met it’s cost of flight frequency goals (or safety). With the ISS it could be argued that it fulfilled the need at that time to keep Russia stable.

                Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew are just supply systems for the ISS, so they don’t really count towards any new initiatives.

                The VSE wasn’t a bad attempt. If they hadn’t stated the fake 2020 return-to-Moon date, which ended up driving unaffordable architectures, it might have been a nice high-level roadmap.

                Not sure the VSE had much support though. And I think that’s because there isn’t any big need to attach to it – no “National Imperative” that can be identified with it. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

                From that standpoint I think NASA should revert to a more NACA like agency. At least until a more substantial national need is identified.

              • Hiram

                “And so far the answer to your questions would be “No it isn’t”, or at the most “No, not yet”.”

                I would be willing to go with “I’d like to believe.” But tell me why I should believe. I sure don’t care for any “space community” to tell me why I should believe. I want our elected leaders to tell me why. I want them to tell me because we as a nation have entrusted them to see the WHOLE PICTURE. If they tell me space is important, then that tells me that space is important in the context of the WHOLE PICTURE. I want them to tell me that with some vigor, and excitement. I want them to inspire me with that reason why. JFK did exactly that. It wasn’t about exploration or technology to him. He inspired us to believe that going to the Moon was the way we could demonstrate the power of democracy and freedom. It was important to him, and he made it important to us.

                I’ll say it again. Let’s not demean NASA employees for not being good communicators about space. And let’s not pass that responsibility over to some “space community”. Let’s look to people who we entrust with the WHOLE PICTURE. Certainly NASA and the space community can help our national leaders communicate. But our national leaders need to do it. It’s worth trying to figure out how that can happen. One wonders if one could create a smart orator like Newt Gingrich, but with a sensible vision of space exploration.

                Now, turning NASA into a NACA works well for technology development and maybe for HSF, but it doesn’t necessarily work well for science. To the extent that NASA is still governed by the Space Act, that’s something that needs to be considered

            • Vladislaw

              I believe it stems from the fact that space, at the human level, really doesn’t enter into many people’s thinking until there is a “dangerous” hubble repair, or something on the ISS. The shuttle accidents. The absolute vast sea of humanity have not been in space, so few have been there, it really isn’t a topic of conversation ….. yet.

              I believe once Virgin is flying, it will start becoming a part of people’s thoughts, that they at LEAST have a shot at space. So many people can relate to major league sports because everyone had an opportunity playing them when young. You could be a part of the game so to speak. That opportunity has been pretty much absent for space travel, but I believe we are on the cusp.

              • Coastal Ron

                Vladislaw said:

                The absolute vast sea of humanity have not been in space, so few have been there, it really isn’t a topic of conversation ….. yet.

                No doubt that is part of it. But we don’t really have a NEED out in space yet.

                Well, other than “knowledge”, but there is no schedule of need for “knowledge” – it will be there in the future, so there is no dire need to spend lots of money on acquiring it.

                And minerals and resources? The Earth has all we need for now of all the ones we know of, so really the only need for minerals and resources in space is, well, when we’re out in space. A ‘chicken and egg’ situation.

                If there is any bright spot that I see, is that there is an interest in spending a some amount of taxpayer money on space science and “human exploration”. So I see the real challenge is in making sure we make the most out of that small amount of money.

                Certainly one way of doing that is what we’re doing with the ISS, where we partner with other countries. And with the Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew programs NASA partnered with industry. Those successful ventures show us that partnerships can work.

                But NASA doing everything itself, especially when the cost is very high, doesn’t look to be the right way forward. The SLS and MPCV rely on 100% NASA funding, and have no other sources of funding to rely upon. If Congress doesn’t fully support those programs, or the fund the missions that the SLS is supposed to fly, then the SLS and MPCV are a waste of time and money.

                So until an acknowledged “National Imperative” is identified that clarifies what our goals are in space, I think we need to adjust our expectations for how much money won’t be available.

              • Hiram

                “I believe once Virgin is flying, it will start becoming a part of people’s thoughts, that they at LEAST have a shot at space. So many people can relate to major league sports because everyone had an opportunity playing them when young.”

                That’s a fair statement, but it has little to do with human space flight. People are going to relate to human space flight because they did it when they were young? Who knew?

                But I agree that the public enthusiasm for human space flight (for whatever reason) may well increase when commercial services start selling seats. Instead of human spaceflight being reserved for NASA ASTRONAUTS, the 1% (or maybe the 0.001%) can plan on them as well. Spread the dream!

          • E.P. Grondine

            Hi Hiram –

            I used to be a space reporter. I’m a long way from DC, and typing this with one finger, but..

            You may have missed this before, so I’ll repeat it here for you plainly:
            My guess is that if language restricting ARM makes it into any final bill, it will be VETOED.

            • Hiram

              “My guess is that if language restricting ARM makes it into any final bill, it will be VETOED.”

              If it’s an approps bill, it won’t be vetoed. For reasons I’ve recently listed. That veto would penalize far more agencies than NASA. If that language is in a NASA auth bill (and one is overdue) I suppose it could be vetoed, because such a veto wouldn’t penalize other federal activities, and probably wouldn’t even penalize NASA activities, but I doubt that it would be vetoed. Congressional language restricting ARM is just telling the Administration that should ARM be budgeted, Congress won’t necessarily support it. That would be the end of ARM. Vetoing a bill where Congress tells the Administration what it won’t support does absolutely nothing for ARM or the Administration. That veto doesn’t change the mind of Congress. Congress has the power here, and not the Administration.

              Of course, the House version of the 2013 NASA Authorization bill (HR2684, in July 2013) flatly denied ARM, but ARM wasn’t mentioned in the Senate version. Presumably, when this Auth effort is restarted this spring, there will be some understanding reached between the those houses.

              Given that ARM is all about finding a use for SLS, it’s unlikely that Congress, and especially the Senate, will deny it entirely, though I’ll bet they’ll at least set up lots of hoops for it to jump through.

              • E.P. Grondine

                Hi Hiram –

                I see.

                Your guess is that the only way your preferred course for NASA would not be VETOED by Obama would be by bundling in the ARM language.

                I don’t know – do you think Obama would really fight for jobs in the Southern Red States?

                Or would he veto and make it as painful as possible for them in particular?

              • Hiram

                “Your guess is that the only way your preferred course for NASA would not be VETOED by Obama would be by bundling in the ARM language.”

                I never said anything about a preferred course. Don’t make stuff up. What I said is that your understanding of congressional process was remarkably naive.

                But I’m glad you see.

            • E.P. Grondine

              Why do I think that defeat of ARM is your preferred course?

              Because of the rationalizing nonsense you have written here concerning the impact hazard, and how to deal with it.

              • Hiram

                In seeking rationalizing nonsense, I concede defeat by you. ARM is an exciting mission, but at least the human space flight and capture part of it is not relevant to the impact hazard, and is probably more of a distraction to real mitigation efforts. The tens of billions of dollars we’d spend to put footprints on a tiny rock could be used to find the dangerous ones. I find it stunning that a self-made impact hazard expert like you can’t see that.

                I guess if we’re worried about big rocks in space, we’d better send humans back to the Moon and leave more footprints there, because it’s a BIG ROCK IN SPACE, right? Applying that logic to terrestrial national security, we need to defeat Al Qaeda by spending a bundle to capture one of their cooks who wears a gray globe/rifle/Qur’an emblem on their gimme cap.

                Rationalizing nonsense has no limits!

      • Vladislaw

        Put someone in that the next administration can promote to the Administrator?

    • common sense

      I realize Norm Augustine is 78 and he may have some personality traits that might not be quite adequate with the role of the DA (regardless if the position is meaningful which I agree it probably is not at this time). However he may be able to put a lot of those industry expectations aside since he does not have anything to prove anymore. Yet he probably knows all the death traps that those idiots in Congress will be eager to create. He was respected enough obviously that they canceled Constellation. Now this being said, it was more of a model I had in mind. Some one from the industry – believe it or not but the future for NASA *is* relationship with the industry and there is a strong push in that direction – with connection in Congress with respect from the NASA crowd might fit the bill. Some kind of mentor position as well for the Admin that I would choose a lot younger than what we’ve had in the past. We need to connect with the younger crowd. The Admin would then be the figurehead – who’d understand the power of social media and Internet networking – and the DA would be the connection.

      Anyway. Just thoughts.

      • amightywind

        I’d guess that no one involved with the hit squad that was the Augustine Committee will be chosen. Garver is gone because of her antagonistic relations with congress. Her replacement will likely be less controversial.

        • common sense

          Possibly about Garver but she’s already planted the seed of change. And as some have already said she might just come back as Admin.

          Her replacement in this WH will most likely be all not that relevant but you never know. The replacement will pursue the policy.

          Changes are coming at NASA, big time. Your dreams of a Congress run giganormous rocket program will come to an end no later than the end of the next WH (2024).

          That would actually be quite a team I believe Admin Garver and Deputy Augustine. Or similar blend of vision and efficiency.

          • amightywind

            Garver’s vision was less unique than you suggest. She is part of a liberal movement certainly, a very vile and destructive one.

            • common sense

              I never said her vision was unique nevertheless she owned said vision. I don’t know what liberal movement you are talking about that she belongs to. She’s trying to empower citizens and small businesses? Instead of supporting fascistic symbols of delusion?

              What we need is a unique combination of skills and knowledge. We cannot operate well if one leader is supporting the past, only, and the other the future, only. We need to find compromises which I will dare say is actually ongoing. But there are many more steps to take.

              I think it would have been a way more effective leadership if Garver had been Admin and Bolden DA. Way more effective.

              • Coastal Ron

                common sense said:

                I think it would have been a way more effective leadership if Garver had been Admin and Bolden DA. Way more effective.

                That would have been interesting.

            • Malmesbury

              “Garver’s vision was less unique than you suggest. She is part of a liberal movement certainly”

              Funny for a Kármán Line Kommunist to call someone “liberal” – for advocating a market above the Kármán line….

  • John Malkin

    It’s hard to lead when you are in chains. The members of the space committees put so many chains on the NASA Administrators that they looks like Jacob Marley. Congress doesn’t want to listen about space. They just want to know how many jobs they can get for their district. Was Goldin or O’Keefe able to replace the Shuttle (the most unsafe NASA human spacecraft ever built). Both failed to communicate we needed it badly.

    I think Dr. Launius’ comments in this article sums up the success of NASA Administrators to communicate with Congress.

    The sooner that human spacecraft development is out of the hands of government, the better.

  • James

    If Charlie were the head of some other Agency, or Department, one that is important to Obama, does anyone think he’s still be around now given his poor performance as a
    1. Communicator
    2. Leader
    3. Strategist
    4. Tactician
    5. Historian
    6. Visionary
    7. etc. etc. etc.

    • Robert G Oler

      Yeah Obama basically tolerates incompetents. He is sort of incompetent which makes the 08 and 12 election even sadder because he was the best choice of the three RGO

    • If Charlie were the head of some other Agency, or Department, one that is important to Obama, does anyone think he’s still be around now given his poor performance

      Why not? Sebelius still has her job. You’d think that would have been pretty important to him.

      There’s an old saying that “A” students hire “A” students, but “B” students hire “C” students.

  • guest

    There is no one reason, probably not even a best reason, but there are a variety of reasons and the Administrator and his top staff in HSF ought to be able to rally the troups and Congress by talking about any of these reasons, extemporaneously. Many of the people who submitted these white papers gave a lot of thought and some were downright eloquent:

    http://www8.nationalacademies.org/aseboutreach/publicviewhumanspaceflight.aspx

    Recently one of the AA staff people were trying to tell people “they needed to break dance and get behind that asteroid mission”. That is such a turn off, partly the mission but that is sure not waxing eloquent about why its good for the program. The way in which it was stated it was the equivalent of ‘I am telling you to get behind it because I said so’.

  • I’m going to point people to a blog posting of mine that started out as a position paper submitted to Lori Garver when she was working on the Hillary Clinton campaign. I wrote Aerospace Workforce Issues based upon my work as leader of a committee of the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board in Maryland, various experiences I had while working at NASA Goddard in a technical position at the supercomputer center, lots of reading and listening to other people — not just geeks.

    Feel free to look around my blog. My pieces are, I admit, much longer than average.

    I’m on the outside these days, not being paid for any of my contributions to the space field. It seems fair to ask why.

    • Coastal Ron

      Chuck Divine said:

      I’m on the outside these days, not being paid for any of my contributions to the space field. It seems fair to ask why.

      OK, why?

      • I think it is because I am a rather bright polymath (grad work first in physics, then in social psychology, became a bit of an artist along the way) with a very open, democratic personality. Bullies can’t control me.

        Other people may have different opinions. Some people in the space field do seem to like me. Others, I think, do not.

        • Coastal Ron

          Chuck Divine said:

          Some people in the space field do seem to like me. Others, I think, do not.

          From what I can see, that’s not unusual, and more likely the norm.

          I read the post you linked to… I thought it was pretty good.

  • Robert G Oler

    What made Garver unique is that somewhere in the recent past she discovered a basic truth…whatever policy that anyone wants to implement in NASA programs is simply not doable with the current method of doing things. We are now down to SLS/Orion which is a project for a projects sake, it is consuming 3 billion a year and literally going nowhere. Webb is similar. Mars efforts in the uncrewed arena are down to a decade long “slog” and in human thoughts are mostly down to viewgraphs.

    What one has to hope, almost singularly is that SpaceX and its Falcon…not the Dragon but the Falcon can reverse launch cost trends and start to bring the cost of access down and then at some point that will improve the numbers of groups who have access and that will at some point start a space industry that is real and not just locked up in comsats.

    Until then the “present way of doing things” are chocking NASA (and other aspects of the federal government) to death…because industry has found out that the real money left in our economy is to get access to the federal treasury…so we now have a lot of “complexes”…the Military, health care, prison and yes space industrial complexes which are virtually dependent on tax dollars.

    Shotwell gave an intriguing speech in Singapore that didnt get a lot of traction…its long and kind of dull…but she noted that they hope to get the cost of a Falcon reusable down to I think it was 7 million a launch.

    Say they miss that by two and its 14 million…what that means is that for 8000 dollars in same dollars (ie time) if I have done my quick math correct (and might not have) assuming a Falcon 9 vr1 payload…my daughter and I couldput 10 kilos into orbit.

    That is a fun summer project RGO

    • Hiram

      “We are now down to SLS/Orion which is a project for a projects sake, it is consuming 3 billion a year and literally going nowhere. Webb is similar.”

      That’s a backhanded and reflexive slap at Webb. Webb is grossly overpriced and behind schedule, but it is not literally going nowhere. We know exactly what Webb will accomplish. It’s going to do great things, but the costs-to-launch are larger than they should be. The cost of operating it is affordable. The cost-to-launch of SLS is also large, but once we launch it, the costs don’t stop! The operating costs of SLS are enormous as well, and probably unaffordable.

      • I agree with Hiram on this one and for the reasons he stated.

      • E.P. Grondine

        Please remind all of us exactly why Ed Weiler’s telescope so essential to this nation, Hiram.

      • Robert G Oler

        I think that the same thing Hiram, can be said about Webb

        No one knows where it is going. If the damn think has a Hubble, ie something is wrong with it “way out there” thats just money gone. Plus I think like Hubble the work it will do is not that “impressive” unless you are publishing astronomical papers.

        it doesnt matter that the Keck does not do anything that “wows” the populace..it doesnt cost what Hubble and Webb will. What we are building is the equivelent of the Super Conductor Super collider (in terms of cost) and going to operate it by remote control a long way off.

        I will be surprised if we get a year out of it. RGO

        • Coastal Ron

          Robert G Oler said:

          Plus I think like Hubble the work it will do is not that “impressive” unless you are publishing astronomical papers.

          OK now you’re just sounding anti-science, since you could say that about the vast majority of science that is funded by taxpayer money.

          Should we spend any taxpayer money on science, and if so, why?

        • Hiram

          “No one knows where it is going. If the damn think has a Hubble, ie something is wrong with it “way out there” thats just money gone.”

          Forgive my blatancy, but that’s just dumb. The purpose of JWST has been planned out to the iota. If it works right, we know exactly what it’s going to do. The damned thing can have a “Hubble” just like any space project can have a “Hubble”. I guess Apollo 13 had a “Hubble”, and Challenger had a “Hubble”, and Mars Polar Lander had a “Hubble”. Life goes on. Yeah, it would be the pits if it did fail, but if you don’t want to try to do hard stuff, you might as well fold up and go home.

          As to operating it by remote control a long way off, uh, what’s the problem? It actually works best a long way off, in order to keep it optimally cold, and we know exactly how to do it. In fact, most space astronomy missions these days (Herschel, Spitzer, Kepler) operate from a “long way off” because, gasp, they work better a long way off. Operating JWST a long way off isn’t what cost the big bucks. Oh, maybe you want an astronaut breathing on the mirror? That would be cute. But it’s true, isn’t it? We don’t know how to send astronauts a long way off where those observatories work so well.

          “it doesnt matter that the Keck does not do anything that ‘wows’ the populace.”

          DCSCA, is that you? Get your elbow pads off the table. The scientific productivity of Keck (as in, the 10mx2 telescope on Mauna Kea) has been profound. Keck has been tracking stars zooming around the black hole at the center of our galaxy. It was the first large observatory to incorporate laser guide star AO that now routinely produces images with far greater detail than those from HST. Cripes. Get your head out of the sand.

          • E.P. Grondine

            Hi Hiram –

            Exactly what is “profound” worth in dollars and cents?

            How many “profounds” is knowing what exactly next years weather will be like?

            How many “profounds” is knowing where the next bit of “stuff” from space headed our way?

            Can “profounds” be used to cure cancer?

            Can a “profound” be used to make anything useful?

            Is there any way to make something useful out of a “profound”?

            We already have fission and fusion bombs.
            Is there a “profound” bomb that no one has told us about yet?

            • Hiram

              “Exactly what is ‘profound’ worth in dollars and cents?”

              I don’t know. What was Apollo 11 worth in dollars and cents? That was a profound accomplishment. How about the Eiffel Tower? How about the Constitution? C’mon. Fess up.

              “Can “profounds” be used to cure cancer?
              Can a “profound” be used to make anything useful?
              Is there any way to make something useful out of a ‘profound’?
              Is there a “profound” bomb that no one has told us about yet?”

              Yep, yep, and yep. Understanding big things about the universe ALWAYS garners return. As to bombs, dark energy is a profound newly identified energy in the universe, as we’re learning from instruments like Keck. If anyone learns how to harness it, look out.

    • Malmesbury

      “Say they miss that by two and its 14 million…what that means is that for 8000 dollars in same dollars (ie time) if I have done my quick math correct (and might not have) assuming a Falcon 9 vr1 payload…my daughter and I could put 10 kilos into orbit.”

      A university professor of my acquaintance, when we discussed this kind of pricing level, was talking in terms of how many *complete payloads* they would buy per year.

    • Malmesbury

      “What one has to hope, almost singularly is that SpaceX and its Falcon…not the Dragon but the Falcon can reverse launch cost trends and start to bring the cost of access down and then at some point that will improve the numbers of groups who have access and that will at some point start a space industry that is real and not just locked up in comsats.”

      See also the announcement that SNC will launch Dream Chaser on their own dime.

      Let us examine that. A company building a manned space vehicle will pay for an unmanned test flight to try and get a government contract. Try and imagine that for the Shuttle, or even the X-37….

      The times are really changing….

      • Robert G Oler

        it is hard to minimize (but some do) the affect that greater and cheaper access to space will have ON OPENING IT UP.

        right now there are to few people in space, costing to much money just to keep them there AND doing very little of value because it cost to much money to get something up there to be done.

        we are stuck with hopingfor the “first big discovery” when all the experiments being done are more or less trivial.

        this changes as cost go down and access goes up. that is why the next “step” in my opinion is opening up ISS RGO

        • Coastal Ron

          Robert G Oler said:

          this changes as cost go down and access goes up. that is why the next “step” in my opinion is opening up ISS

          Interesting article in Aviation Week about the trend of using the ISS as a satellite platform for downward-looking sensors.

          Two of the sensors will be flown up to the ISS on upcoming SpaceX CRS missions in the trunk of the Dragon vehicles. Since the CRS missions are already paid for, delivering the instruments to the ISS is essentially free, so the overall costs are far less.

          From the article:

          By comparison, says Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA headquarters, the two-year baseline Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) mission, with its launch vehicle and the spacecraft, will cost about $372 million.

          These two instruments alone don’t justify the whole ISS ecosystem, but because the ISS is available we are able to see how having a platform in space with frequent access can be used.

    • Neil Shipley

      Actually I’ll go a bit further and say that we really need DragonCrew flying. Without that, we don’t have any crew transport for alternative destinations a la Bigelow. Cheap or cheaper launch comes first of course but we need that crew capability to open space and destroy the old guard.
      Cheers.

    • Gary Warburton

      I wonder how congress will excuse themselves if SpaceX does get their prices real like that? Anyone care to speculate?

    • Gary Warburton

      I wonder how congress will excuse themselves if SpaceX is successful in bringing down costs that much? Anyone care to speculate?

    • Gary Warburton

      I originally tried to reply to Robert Oler`s comment that talked about the conference in Singapore. So here goes again:
      I wonder how congress will excuse themselves if SpaceX is sucessful in bringing down costs that much? Anyone care to comment?

  • mike shupp

    I’m really puzzled by the failure of consecutive NASA Adminstrators, Presidnts, and Congressional leaders to advance plans and budgets, or even a convincing rationale for manned space flight.

    It kind of gives an impression of ineffectual government, or a nation with some kind of social problems. And yet we all remember how swiftly people came together in support of the Supreme Court’s Roe-vs-Wade abortion decision several decades back, the unity we’ve displayed in establishing same sex marriage and other gay rights issues across our nation, the speed and resolution our leaders have shown in facing up to budgetary deficits, and recently the overwhelming bipartisan triumph of the President’s affordable health care initative.

    Setting manned space flight right should be just as simple!

    • Hiram

      The failure of consecutive NASA administrators, presidents, and congressional leaders to advance plans and budgets, or even a convincing rationale for manned space flight could indeed give the impression of an ineffectual government. Then, on the other hand, it could give the impression of a highly effective one. People swiftly came together on Roe-vs-Wade, same sex marriage, and gay rights because those were issues that clearly bore on the quality of life for our citizens. Setting manned space flight right should be just as simple as those other cases, but it might not be as important. The existing rationale for manned space flight evidently isn’t that convincing to our elected representatives. Are they just dumb, or maybe smart?

  • SethG

    The next NASA Administrator and/or Deputy needs to be someone without NASA baggage, either of the human space variety, science variety or otherwise. Certainly no astronauts. No professional politicians. Maybe someone from industry, maybe a tech leader. Most importantly someone of substance and charm, and in touch with humanity.

    Given NASA’s recent decade of wandering, I think it’s ripe for major reform and time for a serious adult conversation about it’s very basic purpose. Perhaps replacing the 58 Space Act in total. While cleaming house from head-to-toe is certainly needed, i’m not optimistic, given the lack of interst in NASA by political leaders at all levels (aside from parochial interests). As an analogy, the national security act of 1947 completely reorganized the War dept and the military to form the basis for today’s DoD. I think it’s high time to raze NASA as it exists today and build a 21st century space program.

    • Hiram

      As to serious adult conversations about human space flight, the current NRC Committee on Human Spaceflight may be having just that. Especially if they can extract themselves from the three-sided intellectual box (exploration! inspiration! exceptionalism!) that human space flight has been confined in. Hard to say whether their report will precipitate any serious house cleaning at NASA, but it’s always valuable to start adult conversations. A 21st century space program might look somewhat unusual, though, to contemporary sensitivities.

      • Coastal Ron

        Hiram said:

        As to serious adult conversations about human space flight, the current NRC Committee on Human Spaceflight may be having just that.

        Well let’s hope so. From their website, the following tasks seem to get to the heart of the matter:

        3. Describe the expected value and value proposition of NASA’s human spaceflight activities in the context of national goals–including the needs of government, industry, the economy, and the public good–and in the context of the priorities and programs of current and potential international partners in the spaceflight program.

        And

        7. Provide findings, rationale, prioritized recommendations, and decision rules that could enable and guide future planning for U.S. human space exploration. The recommendations will describe a high-level strategic approach to ensuring the sustainable pursuit of national goals enabled by human space exploration, answering enduring questions, and delivering value to the nation over the fiscal year (FY) period of FY2014 through FY2023, while considering the program’s likely evolution in 2015-2030.

        They just had their last committee meeting earlier this month, and they don’t have any other activities showing for 2014, so maybe they are getting ready to come to some conclusions and enlighten us with what they found out.

        Let’s hope they can provide some guidance that stakeholders can agree upon.

        • Hiram

          “Let’s hope they can provide some guidance that stakeholders can agree upon.”

          That may be asking too much. With regard to federal funding, let’s hope they can provide some guidance that the nation can agree upon, and if some self-declared stakeholder community gets left out, so be it. For NASA, all taxpayers are equal stakeholders. Now, of course, the “guidance” were looking for are actionable tasks, with cogent goals and rationale that bears on national needs and better quality of life. If it’s just more exploration! inspiration! and exceptionalism!, we can tie the box up and heave it.

          • Coastal Ron

            Hiram said:

            With regard to federal funding, let’s hope they can provide some guidance that the nation can agree upon, and if some self-declared stakeholder community gets left out, so be it.

            In my definition of “stakeholders”, they are the people and organizations that money flows from and to, not the entire taxpayer base. The vast majority of taxpayers are not engaged on the topic of space, and would not fit into the classic definition of “stakeholders”, meaning people that have an interest or concern about something.

            So if the stakeholders I’m talking about don’t buy into whatever the “the vision” is, it doesn’t matter if it contains “actionable tasks, with cogent goals and rationale that bears on national needs and better quality of life”. We need the people with money, and the people seeking the money, to agree on whatever the new plan is.

            If it’s just more exploration! inspiration! and exceptionalism!, we can tie the box up and heave it.

            Yep, I’d agree with that.

            • Hiram

              “In my definition of “stakeholders”, they are the people and organizations that money flows from and to, not the entire taxpayer base.”

              That’s a curious definition of stakeholders for federal expenditures. The taxpayer is who the money flows from. Don’t forget that. If the vast majority of taxpayers is not “engaged” in the topic of space, in that they don’t recognize any value in it, then I see no reason why we are justified in using their money to be doing it. Nor will the elected officials who appropriate money for it (unless, of course, their district is awash in funds from space efforts). I’m sorry, but just because Boeing wants NASA to go to Mars doesn’t mean NASA should go to Mars.

              “We need the people with money, and the people seeking the money, to agree on whatever the new plan is.”

              Well sure, but they aren’t even going to be offered the money if they’re not doing what our leaders decide is in the greater interest of the nation.

              That being said, if we’re not talking about federal expenditures, you can define the stakeholder as you have done.

              There is a lot of confusion about stakeholders. Many self-defined space advocates, because they proudly wear swag with a NASA logo on it, call themselves space stakeholders. I guess others, who are waving big checks at commercial pursuits, call themselves space stakeholders.

              • Coastal Ron

                Hiram said:

                The taxpayer is who the money flows from.

                Yes, but taxpayers don’t vote directly on how their money is spent, only on the politicians that will designate how the money is spent. For money that is being spent by the U.S. Government, politicians are the stakeholders, both for determining how much is spent, and for those that are trying to get a cut of what is spent.

                If the vast majority of taxpayers is not “engaged” in the topic of space, in that they don’t recognize any value in it, then I see no reason why we are justified in using their money to be doing it.

                I’ll save you the suspense – the vast majority are not engaged in the topic of space, no more than they are engaged on the topic of forestry management or health and human services. Even with regard to our military, the number of people directly interested is pretty low, as is the public engagement.

                But that’s not to say the public isn’t occasionally delighted or entertained by what we’re doing in space. I see plenty of stories in the mass media about the ISS, our rovers on Mars, the Hubble, and even Commercial Cargo & Crew. But even though my neighbor has a NASA sticker on his truck, never once has he engaged in conversation about what NASA is doing.

                My opinion is that the U.S. Taxpayer is OK with some portion of their money going towards “science”, and that is how I think they view NASA – as something science related. But what that is – AIDS research, counting owls, earthquake building code studies, sending humans to space for whatever reason – is not something that the U.S. Taxpayer has said they want to vote on directly.

                That is why I say our politicians are stakeholders, because they are the ones that U.S. Taxpayers have put in charge of determining where their money goes, including for space-related stuff. It’s called delegation.

                Overall though I see the stakeholders as the politicians that control the flow of money out, and the private sector and politicians that are on the receiving end of the money. There are others, but I see these as the primary ones.

                My $0.02

              • Hiram

                Taxpayers don’t vote “directly” on how their money is spent, but they want it to be spent on things that they value. If it isn’t spent that way, their votes will fix the problem.

                You didn’t read what I wrote. I said “If the vast majority of taxpayers is not “engaged” in the topic of space, in that they don’t recognize any value in it …” In fact, the vast majority of taxpayers are probably willing to express some sense of value in space. It may not be a very sophisticated expression, but they’ll give it to you. I suspect most do perceive some value in space, but I’ll be honest with you. They’re not quite sure why. They’re engaged enough to know that it’s about traveling to places humans have never traveled, and they know it’s about American exceptionalism. They struggle to attach value to that. In fact, their uncertainty about value is precisely what is holding back greater investment by our federal government in space exploration. Our nation doesn’t want to spend more, because our citizens don’t see clear value. They see maybe hazy value.

                So politicians are the stakeholders, eh? So they get to decide value by what is most important to them, and spend taxpayer money accordingly? You and I know what’s most important to them. It’s getting reelected. That ought to happen by doing things that the taxpayer values. But if that value assessment is only sketchy, they’ll do whatever they damned well want, and will likely do things that bring in campaign money from rich people.

                In developing national rationale and goals for space exploration, pleasing politicians should be pretty low on our list of priorities. They should be pleased about what pleases the public.

                You ought to have a conversation with your neighbor about NASA. Otherwise, we have to assess value by what stickers are on our neighbors trucks.

              • Coastal Ron

                Hiram said:

                You didn’t read what I wrote.

                No, I did. But I disagreed with the premise. Our government spends plenty of money on things most taxpayers know nothing about. But we still spend taxpayer money on them.

                I suspect most do perceive some value in space, but I’ll be honest with you. They’re not quite sure why.

                Fair enough, and from what I see it’s true of other parts of our government too.

                In fact, their uncertainty about value is precisely what is holding back greater investment by our federal government in space exploration.

                Seems to me I remember you saying something about leaders having to lead, regardless if the citizens recognize the need or not.

                Regardless, I don’t think you’re trying to tell me that the actions of Senators Shelby, Hutchison and Nelson on the SLS were guided by the informed opinions of their voters, now are you?

                So they get to decide value by what is most important to them, and spend taxpayer money accordingly?

                Once politicians are elected, there is not much to keep them from voting however they want to vote, especially when they make up whatever justifications they want to justify their votes. This can’t be news to you…

                You and I know what’s most important to them. It’s getting reelected. That ought to happen by doing things that the taxpayer values.

                Believe it or not, I’m not completely cynical about politicians – some do try to do what they think is best for their constituents. Some do have uncorrupted core values that guide them.

                But not all. But that’s not to say that their constituents care about their positions on space when they are running for reelection – let’s remember the topic here.

                In developing national rationale and goals for space exploration, pleasing politicians should be pretty low on our list of priorities.

                I don’t disagree, and I never stated that.

                They should be pleased about what pleases the public.

                More importantly they should be looking out for the “public good”, which may entail being rather forward looking. That’s what the ISS is right now, in that it’s solving problems we need solved if we want to expand out into space.

                But what and when is our need? That is the question for sure…

              • Hiram

                “Our government spends plenty of money on things most taxpayers know nothing about. But we still spend taxpayer money on them.”

                That’s not the point. Our government spends money on things that taxpayers know nothing about, but serving needs that our taxpayers feel strongly about. Should the government be called upon to explain WHY we’ve budgeted for a gross of low noise high payoff framistors, I suspect that they’d be able to attach that procurement to some national need. At least with regard to human space flight, the government is very uncomfortable asserting rationale on the basis of national need.

                “Seems to me I remember you saying something about leaders having to lead, regardless if the citizens recognize the need or not.”

                I doubt I ever said that. I’m saying that we need leaders to communicate policy that is consistent with recognized national needs. If a leader wants to try to tell me what I need, I’m going to be somewhat skeptical. That leader might convince me that I need a low noise high payoff framistor, but will have to do that by connecting procurement of that item to some need that I accept.

                “Once politicians are elected, there is not much to keep them from voting however they want to vote, especially when they make up whatever justifications they want to justify their votes. This can’t be news to you…”

                I don’t remember ever getting to vote for Nelson or Shelby. What they want doesn’t help the country, though it might well help their constituents.

                “More importantly they should be looking out for the “public good”, which may entail being rather forward looking. That’s what the ISS is right now, in that it’s solving problems we need solved if we want to expand out into space.”

                There’s that awkward “if”. Three cheers for the ISS in doing things that we might want to do. Of course, “expanding out into space” is something we’d choose to do instead of doing something else. The priority of “expanding out into space” is something quite elusive.

                “But what and when is our need? That is the question for sure…”

                Exactly. That need is currently buried in smarmy words like “exploration”, “inspiration” and “exceptionalism.”. Maybe someday, someone will be able to extract those needs and articulate them in a convincing way.

              • Coastal Ron

                Hiram said:

                That’s not the point.

                Obviously I think it is, but anyways…

                Our government spends money on things that taxpayers know nothing about, but serving needs that our taxpayers feel strongly about.

                I’m not even sure you can say that. MAYBE at a high level they care, like how subsidies to farmers affect the price of food they buy. But in general most taxpayers don’t really know how much stuff their taxes go towards, and can’t make those broad connections.

                However, with regards to what we are doing in space as a whole (humans, robotics, etc.), my proposition is that most people look at what we’re doing in space as something “science” related. That they lump it in with what is being done in all the sciences, across many government agencies, and that NASA is not really special.

                So from my perspective most people look at what we’re doing in space as just part of our overall investment in science. You know, AIDS research, robotics, counting owls, volcano studies, new ways to bomb people from afar, learning how bodies react to long term weightlessness, new dielectric materials for batteries, etc.

                If all that is true, then expecting taxpayers to pay more attention to space without a real reason is pointless – they have short attention spans. And until there is a real reason for changing the formula that politicians use for funding NASA (which might involve flipping coins), we’re going to have to learn how to live with less money for whatever it is we do want to do.

                Getting back to the start of this thread, I don’ think it matters who is the NASA Administrator or the Deputy, and I don’t think anyone can come up with some grand unifying reason for doing human space exploration. I think we are at a point where other things have to happen to generate future reasons. I don’t think that is bad either, as sometimes a pause allows for reflection and allows for pressure to build up for future activity.

                My $0.02

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi Coastal –

          My “guess” is and has been for a long time now that about the only thing that will keep human space flight going is building impactor detection instruments on the Moon.

          Feel free to disagree, but that is the way I see it.

          In any case, and also in my opinion, the ARM is only the mission that will keep things going right now. ARM could then lead to the Moon or Mars.

          Again, feel free to disagree, but that is the way I see it.

          It appears that possibly China’s decision on CAPS has slipped to 2025.
          Following 73P’s approach in 2022, I suspect that a decision will be make afterwards, if it can.

          • Hiram

            “… the only thing that will keep human space flight going is building impactor detection instruments on the Moon.”

            It’s now well understood that, at least for optical, UV and IR detectors, the Moon is a pretty crappy place for telescopes. I assume that’s what you mean by “impactor detection instruments”. Free-space is FAR better for such observations. Power abundance, field-of-view, temperature stability, contaminant avoidance — that’s what you get in free-space compared to the lunar surface. Now, that doesn’t keep humans from working on such telescopes, but does keep them out of the dust.

            I felt free to disagree.

            As to ARM, human space flight has precious few rationales, so if you need to prop it up by putting footprints on a small rock, then so be it. That sending humans to an asteroid, where they don’t really need to be sent for anything, is the only way to keep things going, says a lot about human space flight.

            If people are going to be sent to a small rock because of geopolitical exceptionalism, then I guess it reinforces the spirit of geopolitical exceptionalism that you’ll need for going to bigger rocks.

  • For what it’s worth…here are some names. Do any stand out as potential Deputy Administrators?

    ALREADY MENTIONED: Jeff Greason, Mark Kelly, Norm Augustine

    SECOND AUGUSTINE PANEL: Wanda Austin, Bohdan Bejmuk, Leroy Chiao, Christopher Chyba, Edward F. Crawley, Jeffrey Greason, Charles Kennel, Lester Lyles, Sally Ride

    FIRST AUGUSTINE PANEL: Laurel Wilkening, Edward Aldridge, Joseph Allen, D. James Baker, Edward Boland, Daniel Fink, Don Fuqua, Robert Herres, David Kerns, Louis Lanzerotti, Thomas Paine

    ASTRONAUTS: Mae Jemison, Sunita Lyn “Suni” Williams née Pandya, Peggy Whitson

    PLANETARY SCIENTISTS: Steve Squyres, Adam Steltzner

    NASA INSIDERS: David Radzanowski

    OTHERS: Wayne Hale, Neil deGrasse Tyson

    NAMES MENTION ON THIS BLOG:
    http://www.spacenewsforum.com/drupal7/article/civil-space/36669sn-blog-more-names-emerge-for-nasa-deputy-administrator
    Pam Melroy, Eileen Collins, Patti Grace Smith, Ann Zulkosky, Richard DalBello

    • Coastal Ron

      DougSpace said:

      For what it’s worth…here are some names. Do any stand out as potential Deputy Administrators?

      Of the people on the list that are high profile, and are looked at in a positive light amongst the general public, I’m not sure they would take on the DA job without some assurance that they can push for something. Otherwise I think they would see it as a waste of their talent, and I would agree.

      Also, you do want someone that has some management experience, since by nature the position does deal with management issues.

      And whoever you pick that has a background with something having to do with “space” is going to bring their own biases with them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it gets back to what the Administration wants to accomplish in the short amount of time left. Do they push for a specific “vision”, or are they going to just pursue what they already have?

      Just for fun I’d love to see Jeff Greason take the post, just to see how he ruffles the feathers.

    • SethG

      As I said earlier, my druthers would be to not have anyone with NASA baggage, so that rules out everybody on DougSpace’s list. Greason might be interesting, but afraid I’d be disappointed to see him reined in and have to tow the line. There are good leaders in industry, and not just the space industry, but in the broader technology and services industries. One of the problems in attracting people is the perception that NASA is a quagmire of insurmountable political problems, both internally within NASA and with its external relationships with the White House, Congress and industry. Another problem is that NASA’s mission is so broadly defined; combined with the current lack of focus, especially on HSF, invites political mischief and being used as a pawn for parochial interests.

      By the way, I’ll be interested to see what the NRC study comes up with, but at best, it may be a prelude the real adult conversation…within the political circles of the government. I just dont think enough people in those circles cares enough to expend the political capital to change anything.

      Frankly, it probabaly wont matter who the Dep NASA Admin is, or even if they have one. Sad to say, but NASA’s most likely on slow death spiral. It has served its purpose and cannot now get out of its own way.

    • Alan Ladwig

      Well, the ones that are dead certainly stand out!

      • Bob

        It reminds one of an exchange early in the movie “Major League”, when the new owner is passing out a list of players she’s invited to camp:

        Board Member 1: I’ve never heard of half of these guys and the ones I do know are way past their prime.

        Charlie Donovan: Most of these guys never had a prime.

        Board Member 2: This guy here is dead!

        Rachel Phelps: Cross him off, then!

  • I suspect the reason we’ve got such a bland Adaministrator and policies out of the Obama Administration is, simply, the Obama Administration doesn’t really care about space. That is also probably how a passionate advocate for a new direction was able to quickly accumulate so much power and influence from the ostensibly junior position. Nobody but she cared. Thus, in my view, the Obama Administration did the right thing — try to kill the jobs program that Constellation had become and push “new space” hard — for all the wrong reasons — to avoid spending additional government money on an activity they consider more-or-less beside the point. This could also explain the asteroid retrieval. I consider that the best of a bad set of choices, What is Wrong with Retrieving and Asteroid?, but its strengths — it’s cheap while being at least somewhat useful and potentially spectacular — are the same charactoristics that made it politically attractive to the Administration.

    • Coastal Ron

      Donald F. Robertson said:

      I suspect the reason we’ve got such a bland Adaministrator and policies out of the Obama Administration is, simply, the Obama Administration doesn’t really care about space.

      Likely it won’t be until after Obama is out of office until we get enough real insight into this. My opinion is that Obama did care to some degree, or at least agreed with the plan that the Administration proposed to cancel Constellation and reset NASA back into doing technology development for future exploration. It is widely acknowledged that NASA’s technology cupboard for doing human exploration is “bare”, and Obama’s FY10 budget proposal was trying to address that.

      However when the Administration had to cut the deal to keep the Orion and build the mini-Ares V (i.e. the SLS), they saw that those two programs would not allow NASA to afford to do anything during the rest of his term in office. At that point their main focus was to make sure the ISS continued and that Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew survived.

      That’s my take on things.

      Regarding your article on SpaceNews, nice job. I have my reasons for not liking the ARM, but I’ll save those for another time.

  • Daddy

    The bigger question is not who will be DA…. It’s – Who would take the job? Garver pretty much wrecked NASA. Any replacement named by this administration will be looked at with a wary eye from the NASA rank and file. Charlie is a good man, but has been dismissed and abandoned repeatedly by his boss, and undermined on a daily basis by his incompetent deputy. He is better off just riding out the remainder of the term without a deputy. Besides, any Obama appointment is surely going to be delayed and lambasted by partisan congressional bickering.

    Let’s focus on the 2017 administration…. My vote for NASA Administrator goes to either Wayne Hale or Neil deGrasse Tyson. They “GET IT” and they have enough credibility to operate essentially unfettered by presidential meddling. Their challenge will be to lobby congress for funding, hopefully in a less partisan political environment. It can’t get any worse than Obama and Garver did at creating political divide in the space program.

    • common sense

      What a stupid comment. Garver single handedly as Deputy Admin wrecked NASA???

      As for Charlie. Here is a clue for you. If your boss assigns you to do something you better do it. If you don’t you suffer the consequences. Just as Griffin was left behind when HE wrecked the Agency with an idiotic unworkable over budget program.

      Neil deGrasse Tyson has no chance unfortunately to change anything. Wayne Hale possibly but he is a Shuttle veteran and it will not play in his favor.

      Operate unfettered by presidential meddling. You are really something aren’t you? So the Boss has nothing to say to his employees?

      You are living in an alternate reality.

    • Vladislaw

      THIS President has had more political appointments turned down and refused to even vote on them than ALL President in the history of the United States COMBINED.

      So your comment that “any replacement named by this administration” is laughably ignorant. It will almost automatically be turned down… Read the news.

    • Hiram

      “They ‘GET IT’ and they have enough credibility to operate essentially unfettered by presidential meddling.”
      Duh, a President is going to choose someone for NASA Administrator, who’s supposed to work for the President, who would operate essentially unfettered by presidential meddling? What planet are you living on?

      Neil and Wayne are sharp guys, but their skills are on podiums that they now own. They are independent. That’s why they can do the good stuff that they do. Were they in the NASA Administrator’s office, they wouldn’t own themselves or their podiums. What a fabulous way to make smart and savvy people totally impotent. Right now, they can lobby Congress for funding. They do that NOW. As civil service appointees, they cannot. In fact, appointees are subject to more ethics restrictions than regular executive branch employees.

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