How the next NASA administrator might view his/her responsibilities.
Disclaimer — This interview is fictional and reflects the views of the author. — Disclaimer
Should the shuttle retire in 2010?
Yes. Reliance on Russian crew transport to ISS would not have been my choice, but Congress and the previous administration did not fund the shuttle’s replacement adequately. We will face a U.S. launch gap from Cape Canaveral for at least four years. But despite recent disagreements with the Russians, they appear interested in continuing space cooperation. A nearly twenty-year partnership has created a healthy and workable collaboration in daily ISS operations. With their future in space tied firmly to the ISS, providing U.S. access to the Station via Soyuz is in their self-interest. I believe Russia will live up to its commitment as NASA retires the shuttle and tests Orion.
With ISS access assured, I will recommend retiring the orbiter fleet in late 2010. Budget pressures and the shuttle’s inherent vulnerabilities make its timely retirement a high priority. Funds freed by shuttle retirement are essential to fielding the Orion/Ares system.
NASA’s budget has declined 20% over the last fifteen years, and we must have resources commensurate with the challenges before us. As we execute an orderly shuttle retirement, I will ask the Obama administration for new money this year to accelerate Orion’s debut and free us from dependence on Soyuz.
What role do you envision for the ISS?
Between 2011 and 2015, NASA will spend about $50 million per seat to send astronauts to the ISS aboard the Soyuz. To realize the benefits from our investment in the Station, I will ask the President for budget authority to jump-start our research program on ISS, both to prove new exploration technologies and produce the economic payback that first justified its construction. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, whose launch to the Station I support, will search for the universe’s antimatter and dark matter. We will also pursue promising partnerships in the biomedical area and test the technologies (life support, resource utilization, and power) needed for deep space exploration. For example, space-grown bacteria have brought us close to introducing an effective vaccine against the salmonella bacterium, a major source of food-borne illness that kills more than 400 Americans each year.
I will seek to raise long-term commercial interest in ISS by extending ISS operations beyond 2016. To do that, I’ll have to convince President Obama to override long-seated resistance to the Space Station in his own Office of Management and Budget.
Disclaimer — This interview is a work of fiction. — Disclaimer
Contact me at www.AstronautTomJones.com
Dave Clow says
I’d like to see NASA re-invigorate its commitment to outreach and communications. We need a new generation of engineers, program managers, and practical visionaries like the ones who heard Kennedy’s summons. Today these kids have plenty of other options and it’ll take an army of new, talented and inspired people to choose NASA and space over their other possibilities. They need inspiration, and NASA needs to light that fire again.
Thanks for the comment. I agree. The President can do so much in this regard, just by endorsing the importance of space to America’s future. We lacked that in the Bush administration. I’m writing about just what you suggest in an upcoming Popular Mechanics article.