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Another Hudson Interview
A few months ago, I interviewed Gary Hudson, long-time space entrepreneur.
Clark Lindsey has done so as well, and it's a very interesting one. While some of the discussion of Alternate Access may sound like "inside baseball" (as it were), this is a very important story, and sadly not atypical of NASA behavior, and one of the many reasons we make so little progress.
Clark makes a good point here:
There doesn't seem to be much of a tradition of investigative journalism within the aerospace press. When you talk about your case and the X-37 situation, it reminds me of the X-34 cancellation, which I saw as an outrage if not a scandal. As I understand it, in the aftermath of the two Mars mission failures, all major projects got hit with system reviews to avoid any more embarassing public disasters. For the X-34, they added so many additional safety requirements that it crossed their cost limit and so was canceled. This happened even though, in traditional X project spirit, Orbital had built 3 vehicles just so it would have backups if one was lost. In addition, NASA had required that they use the Fastrac engine, which as far as I know, was a project that simply faded away without ever flying an engine or making any public accounting whatsoever.
Yes. Unfortunately, being a good investigative reporter in this field requires both good journalistic skills, and knowledge of both the technical and programmatic aspects of the industry. That's a combination that's in scant supply, and there aren't very many publications in whose interest it is, necessarily, to turn over the rocks. Even when the stories are told, it's mostly in the trade press--it rarely makes it into the mainstream where the public becomes aware of it because, well, space just Isn't Important.
And when the only scandal is perceived to be a waste of money (as opposed to the real tragedy, which is the time lost, and opportunity cost, and continued delay in making serious progress), that doesn't stand out that much in the context of the general waste of government funds. People have become inured to the notion that Big Aerospace wastes money, and that almost fails to be news any more.Posted by Rand Simberg at June 10, 2003 11:38 AM
The X-34 fiasco in particular deserves closer scrutiny. Senior members of the Fastrac team have said in public that the program was *never*intended* to produce a flight engine. This came as a bit of a surprise to the X-34 team, to say the least. Clearly senior people at Marshall lied to somebody.
There is also the question of how Fastrac came into existence in the first place. I've heard rumors that the program was created in a bit of a sleight of hand by Marshall, and against serious opposition from headquarters.
Of course, as you point out, a half decent investigative instinct in the Aerospace Press would have cleared this all up long ago.Posted by Andrew Case at June 10, 2003 05:47 PM
Senior members of the Fastrac team have said in public that the program was *never*intended* to produce a flight engine.
In fact, my recollection was that this was a statement by the recently-retired and utterly unlamented (at least by me) Art Stephenson, head of Marshall, at a Space Transportation Association luncheon in Washington at which some OSC execs were present. They reportedly walked out in amazement and anger.
Of course, they didn't file a protest, because they still hunger after NASA contracts, or at least did at the time...Posted by Rand Simberg at June 10, 2003 07:25 PM
How's this for investigative journalism ? http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.07/space.html?pg=6
That's a good article overall, but I didn't see much more in there about Bezos than has already been reported.Posted by Rand Simberg at June 11, 2003 09:12 AM
Now lets look at the x38 project that was just recently "gracefully" shut-down. As the OSP initiative begins, following closely behind the SLI fiasco, it should be noted that the NASA administration has lost all ability to lead anything.
Dan Golden forced the hand of Congress to create a ridiculous budget problem as his plan was to simply get a station up there and then there would be no way to cancel it. Regardless of your thoughts on Golden, he was right. It was what the space industry and exploring enthusiasts needed. It was a fight against scientists (political scientists) and NASA. NASA won.
Now there is a scientist (political) heading NASA. Trying to slowly pull the Station back down to the ground. From day one, O'Keefe has taken all hope of Human Space Flight and crushed it before this country?s eyes. Not that there weren't problems in the past, but he has no vision, and no ability to lead the NASA faithful.
The Columbia tragedy was a horrific outcome of well meaning intentions of all those who worked on the Shuttle. The Orbiter (shuttle) is an amazing machine but space flight is inherently not safe. Until congress, and even NASA begin to understand this is not a jet liner (and why it is not a jet liner) then the needed flexibly for human space flight will never be granted. And it must be granted for us to explore onward. For we desire to live beyond mere existence. That is why we press forward into space. There is no political reason for it.
And yes, if NASA had known there was a problem they would have done anything to get the people back safely. If the Shuttle was sitting in space with CNN, foxnews, etc., planted on it watching the crew sit in space, we would have launched another shuttle regardless of the risk. Without question. Those who say otherwise are the reason why NASA is in such a culture mess. They don?t understand why the American people, and world, look in awe of NASA.
If we look at Columbia and trace the flight manifest some things become quite clear. Why was Columbia up there? It was performing experiments that should have been done on the Space Station. Why was it done on Columbia and not the Station? Because the NASA administration, who needed to fix the budget line, decided to cut the x38/CRV program. This forcing the Station to only three crew members. As there were only three crew members, the science racks for the station were delayed. Enter Columbia, a flight needed to offset the science load as the station was unready to perform.
The tragedy could still have occurred, and probably will again, though in a different manifestation. The problem I see with it is that the continuous cutting of X projects finally caught up with NASA.
I hope someday we get our Nations National Pride Organization back. NASA is a remarkable agency and provided hope in particular times like these. It only needs to be lead. With a vision and a spirited drive. I hope.Posted by transistor at June 18, 2003 06:12 PM
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