Why The Government Won’t Get Us Into Space

Read Kevin Parkin’s excellent account of yesterday’s town hall meeting at JPL (in the comments section of Jeff Foust’s post announcing it), and weep:

From memory (expect lots of errors):

Estimated average audience age – 55 years
Estimated audience size – 250
Aprox. % of JPLers – 80%
Estimated people there my age (27) or younger – 10 (including the camera man, myself, and Derek Shannon (see earlier comment))

Sen. Brownback gave a 5 min intro to set the stage for the town hall meeting, making it clear that he was highly interested in innovative suggestions for how to structure the legislative architecture of the exploration initiative. Rep. Rohrabacher said a few words and was congratulated by JPL President Charles Elachi on having triplets this month. Also in attendance was Buzz Aldrin and Gen. Pete Worden.

– The first audience speaker spoke eloquently and extolled the virtues of prizes and industry collaboration. Sen. Brownback asked people who did/didn’t support prizes to raise their hands. Sen. Brownback asked the audience speaker how much the prize award should be. This seems to be a point of particular interest, since Sen. Brownback asked precisely the same question of Elon Musk at the launcher hearing a couple of weeks ago. Back then, Elon Musk said something like it should be 10% of the amount the government would otherwise spend on developing that capability. This time, the answer was “as much as possible” to which there was laughter and Sen. Brownback rephrased the question, how little can we spend on prizes? Nothing as good as Elon’s answer was put forward.

– The gentleman sitting on my left believed that the focus of NASA should not be on exploring Mars but rather on studying the dynamics of Earth, global warming, etc. Knowing of Rep. Rohrabacher