Goodnight Moon: Michael Griffin on the future of NASA

Ars Technica’s Leandro Oliva has a really good interview with former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin in, Goodnight Moon: Michael Griffin on the future of NASA.

We are big fans of Mike Griffin. One of us has even worked through a review in Constellation with Mike. And through that experience, the opinion here is that Mike Griffin was not only smart, he was forthright.

Here are a few quotes:

    “Leaving aside the details of rocket design, the larger question with the administration’s new plan is how does that get us out beyond low Earth orbit in a timely and effective way. The administration’s new budget offers a plan to dismantle an ongoing program, but offers no coherent replacement.

    “I’m concerned with two larger issues: The first one, what are the proper goals of the US space program? In my view, the proper goal is an aggressive program to return to the Moon, and learn how to use it, and then after the Moon to go on to Mars and near Earth asteroids, and other interesting places. We need a robust program of exploration; the president’s plan does not offer that.

    “Now, the second comment that I would make: is there a value for a government-led human space flight program? See, what’s being missed here is that NASA is being taken out of the business of conducting human space flight, and I think that’s wrong. Those are the larger issues, and we are being diverted by the details of this vehicle or that vehicle, and I would say that the diversion is not productive. We need to focus on the larger issues: should NASA… should the US government be leading the human space flight program or not, and what are the goals? I am unsatisfied with the President’s answers to those questions.

    “I would also ask the question: If the government is the only customer in a so-called commercial service, then how is it commercial? 85 percent of NASA’s budget today is spent in industry, with NASA supervising what is done. It seems to me, when I closely analyze the comments being made by the so-called commercial firms, all they really want to do is continue to get NASA money—they just don’t want NASA to supervise the job. As a taxpayer, I would ask: in what sense is it appropriate for tax payer funds to be provided to commercial industry without government oversight? That’s the crux of the issue here. The crux of the issue is not whether American industry will do work for government money, the question is whether there should be appropriate supervision of how that money is spent.”

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