First, I appreciate the opportunity that Rand has provided to have this discussion. It’s been floating around in the background of the space community for a long time, and the main reason I put my campaign statement up know was to catalyze that discussion out into the open. My hope is that it is a lively, but respectful, discussion from all sides.
But the new policy meets that test much better than the previous one. There was little or no hope that Constellation would have opened up the frontier, even if fully funded. This is something that NSS generally, and Terry specifically, have never really understood.
I’ve never understood it, because it isn’t true. The model is really quite simple: the government pays to develop advanced manned space techniques that make no sense to do commercially. In other words, the program does things faster than private industry could, not because they are better at it (they aren’t) but because they can do it before it makes commercial sense to do so.
And having a specific objective, where it becomes obvious if you slip or slow down and fail, is critical to making sure that actually happens.
There is no plausible path from NASA’s “NASA uber alles” policy, in which billions are spent to send a few astronauts to a planet for some vague purpose, and space settlement. But NSS continually (despite occasional refreshing support for private activities) supports whatever NASA wants to do.
As long as NASA pushes the edges faster than they would be pushed “naturally”, I don’t have any great bias about the right direction. For example, I’ve never had an interest in the Moon/Mars debate, because the purpose is to go somewhere, and do something, that we haven’t done before. Faster than can be justified on a commercial basis. And that’s the key.
Despite having seen it live on television, at this point, in practice, we haven’t been to the Moon before.
Defending NASA’s new plans on both charges was deputy administrator Lori Garver.
“We plan to transform our relationship with the private sector as part of our nation’s new strategy with the ultimate goal of expanding human presence across the solar system,” she said in a luncheon speech at the conference Thursday. “So don’t be fooled by those who say we have no goal. That is the goal.”
I respect Lori a great deal, but this is mostly fuzzy. It’s a good thing to do, but it’s not a goal, in the sense of going somewhere.
And, let me be clear about this. If the budget had said:
“We’re going back to the Moon, and we’re hiring Branson and Rutan to get us there,” I’d be perfectly fine with that. In fact, I’d be ecstatic. That would be the best possible result. But it didn’t say that, or anything dimly like that.
And this, perhaps, explains a lot of the difference of opinion. I don’t give a damn about having the government do the development work. In general, I think that’s a bad idea. But I want the government to pay for a real project, to go somewhere, sooner than would be justified by simple commercial requirements.
Doing that would develop technology and capabilities faster than it would be developed naturally. In my judgment, we need to get the species established in space sooner than the natural course of commercial events will cause that to happen. I’m not pushing to have the government develop technology (although I’m content with that, if that’s the only way to get it funded); I’m pushing to have the government pay to fund that accelerated development, and go somewhere.
I’m have no problem having the actual work privatized. In fact, I think that’s the right thing to do.
Turning to the private sector to launch both cargo and crews to LEO, she continued, actually lowered the risk to the agency in the long run by keeping it from relying on a single system for human access to orbit.
I completely agree with that. That’s a good thing.
But it’s not enough.
Does this sound like a policy to “kill the American manned space program”?
In the sense of “Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before,” absolutely. Absolutely. Privatizing LEO work is good to do. It’s the right path for that task. But it’s not enough.
If so, I think that Terry owes an explanation of why, to NSS members he expects to vote for him, other than a belief in the Apollo Cargo Cult.
Actually, the fact that I’m running unopposed gives me a little latitude to be even more controversial than usual…