The Augustine Commission – Old Habits Die Hard


Image Credit: NASA Image

NASA Administrator General Charles Bolden, former astronaut, has made a number of speeches and statements that say little about the upcoming report from The Augustine Commission, nor his views about the future course of NASA Human space Flight exploration goals and architecture, but speak volumes about his view of the culture of NASA and Capital Hill.

Bolden said the following about the push for commercial crew launch during a commercial space seminar held 23 September 2009 on Capitol Hill:

“Old habits die hard. Many of us who have grown up in the traditional space program, you know, we really believe we have all the answers. It has to be our way or no way at all,” he said. “I don’t believe that. I am becoming more and more convinced every day in this job that there are different ways that we can and must do this.”

He described the COTS program with SpaceX to demonstrate the Dragon supply vehicle on a Falcon 9 rocket, and the separate contract with Orbital Sciences Corp. to develop a competing cargo module and rocket. Bolden said that the COTS efforts in Low Earth Orbit abilities “will grow jobs in engineering, design and research, and it will spur economic growth as capabilities for new markets are created.” He wants to make NASA and the space industry innovative, and attractive to new talent.

More recently, in a speech delivered to aerospace representatives and U. S. lawmakers on 8 October 2009, Bolden related his initial refusal of President Obama’s request to head NASA. He described his previous eight month assignment in the early 1990’s as Assistant Deputy Director of NASA. He hated it. “It was the worst eight months of my life.” One of the jobs was to corral support for the International Space Station. It succeeded by one vote.

Concerning his unease with Washington power brokering:

“I am not going to get used to this culture,” he said. “I don’t want to get used to this culture. But if you will allow me to do the job that you asked me to do, I will do it. And I will do it well.”

He candidly admits his time at NASA may be brief. But many are hopeful that Bolden will have a long and influential stay.

Bolden acknowledges the concerns of the Washington beltway. He has met with members of the House and has met with members of the Senate. The political concerns are well known,and he added, “But, I can’t do anything if we don’t change the way we operate.” Bolden does not want to “back into” a NASA program from the perspective of “here’s a budget, how much can you do with it.” Concerning the rationale for the NASA program:

If you’re not doing it for a reason, I think you ought not to be doing it.

Which goes straight to one of the key elements emphasized by members of the Augustine Commission, that destinations are not goals. The Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) established a destination, the Moon by 2015 (no later than 2020), and then political indifference to funding crippled the ability to achieve the destination. At least the Augustine Commission has articulated a significant goal, the expansion of human civilization into the Solar System.

Bolden has been meeting as many as nine hours a week with his senior team, and indicated that they had pretty well settled the “why” question. They are now looking at the architectural options and developing the recommendation for the President.

Given his concern with the budgetary approach taken by part the Augustine Commission deliberations, and the types of missions and architecture that could fit within a given budget, it appears that the recommendations to Obama by Bolden and NASA will be a “why” driven program.


2 thoughts on “The Augustine Commission – Old Habits Die Hard

  1. Pingback: NASA – The Rumor Mill « The National Space Society of Phoenix

  2. Pingback: NASA – Bolden – Heavy Lift Vehicles « The National Space Society of Phoenix

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