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A Glimmer Of Hope?

As current blog readers know, I've been pretty much of an agnostic as to which candidate would be best for space policy (at least in terms of actually advancing us toward becoming a spacefaring society). But I just saw a very interesting rumor over at Space Politics. The post is about whether McCain likes Mars, and was influenced by reading The Martian Chronicles (which are not, contrary to common belief, science fiction, but rather fantasy, like much of Bradbury's work).

But the rumor is in comments, from two separate commenters:

My understanding is that Craig Steidle is formally advising the McCain campaign, and may be determining McCain's NASA policy...

...Admiral Steidle has also adopted an EELV-based approach for Shuttle replacement, albeit with the Orbital Space Plane (OSP). I think it would be very easy for him to embrace an approach using a downsized Orion/CEV on top of an EELV.

The Admiral had a very forward focused program that didn't play favorites with any of the NASA centers, particularly Marshall. This ticked off several of the congressional delegations. But I have a feeling that the Alabama contingent may not hold as much sway over the upcoming years.

It's interesting that you brought up the Admiral here. I've heard rumors from several sources that he would be the likely NASA Administrator if McCain is elected. Unlike the current Soviet-style Design Bureau Culture at NASA, Steidle is a believer and practitioner of good old American free enterprise and competition.

Steidle was in charge of the VSE before Mike Griffin came in (O'Keefe was much more hands-off as an administrator, particularly because he wasn't a rocket scientist, and didn't pretend he was). Mike Griffin essentially tore up everything that Steidle was doing by the roots, and instituted his own plan. So while Steidle is hardly perfect, he'll be a big improvement, and get the program back on track as it was when he left, with the loss of three years or so. If this rumor is true, for this reason alone, McCain now looks like a far preferable candidate to Obama, in terms of space. Of course, for me, and many others, space remains a lower-priority issue. But it does provide a reason to vote for McCain (as opposed to against Obama), which I've been having trouble coming up with.


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Bill White wrote:

Was Craig Steidle considered for the job after Sean O'Keefe resigned?

Dennis Wingo wrote:


How solid is this rumor?

It would be interesting. I do know that when he first came into the job the heavy lift mafia tried to co-op him to their cause. He demurred and opened up the design space with the CE&R effort. As we all know, heavy lift was not really a part of that effort.

While he had his own issues, anything is preferable to a dead end effort.

Rand Simberg wrote:

How solid is this rumor?

I've no idea. I linked to the source. It is two commenters at Space Politics.

Doug Lassiter wrote:

Yes, that was my rumor, and I stand by it.

I also agree that Admiral Steidle was a terrific manager and thinker, whose ejection from NASA HQ was very unfortunate.

But it's going to take a lot more than a NASA Administrator to make the case to the nation for an ambitious program of human space exploration. This one, for all his engineering expertise, has not. You need a President who is comfortable with the goals and objectives of the enterprise. This one is not.

Not at all clear yet whether Obama or McCain will best make this case of national value to the nation.

lenji wrote:

Don't be too quick to dismiss Obama.

Democratic primaries are not very friendly terrain for boldness in space policy.

But he picks up on passion in a big way, and I believe he'd go gonzo spacer if he became president and saw how all the suborbital flights were inspiring people and creating hope.

And I wouldn't put too much stock in "maverick" McCain's seriousness or ability to get a radical space agenda through Congress, especially since he'd still have to pay for staying in Iraq, and maybe have to pay for invading Iran too, and of course he plans to cut taxes. Can't just print money for space. Won't happen.

Obama's the best bet for space.

Mike Puckett wrote:

"Obama's the best bet for space."

People can deny reality staring them in the face to justify any idotic belief that has damn little to no evidence to support.

Tha would be like arguing Jimmy Carter was the best bet to get tough with the Soviets.

Carl Pham wrote:

Obama's the best bet for space

Wow, I can see someone's drunk deeply of the hope-flavored Kool-Aid.

Sunshine Boy has zero interest in Right Stuffish engineering derring-do, or macho plantings of the flag, and/or promoting space tourism for the extremely wealthy. That is so totally not the Mommy Party metrosexual kind of thing, and it sure doesn't Heal The Planet(TM) or Get Proper Healthcare To Everyone, Regardless of Ability to Pay.

Mike G in Corvallis wrote:

> > Obama's the best bet for space

> Wow, I can see someone's drunk deeply of the hope-flavored Kool-Aid.

To use James Lileks' memorable words, he's not only drunk the Kool-Aid, he's ordered another gallon for a high colonic.

What I've seen of Obama's intentions for the space program do not look good at all.

Neil Woodward wrote:

Rand -

I've heard this rumor also, from about three different sources - one quite high up in space policy / political circles. None of them, though, had any connections with Steidle or his team that I'm aware of, so it may be just speculation (idle or otherwise).

Even if it were to happen, it may be difficult to change architectures again. There is considerable political interest in "closing the gap", and rebooting the Steidle effort or re-looking at ESAS could be seen as stretching the gap. This perception, correct or not, would make any architecture change difficult.

Habitat Hermit wrote:

"...he'd go gonzo spacer..."

That's supposed to be a good thing?

lenji wrote:

Y'all just ain't thinking outside the box.

Obama's about breaking with the past. He wouldn't be wedded to the pork contractors like "maverick" McCain. He could be convinced to expand COTS and prize programs into a whole raft of new ones. And he could do it even if he cuts the NASA budget.

He doesn't care enough about the subject to not let new ideas lead.

If "maverick" McCain has a vision (and that's a big if) it's just gonna be just like Bush's and be Pork Central and go nowhere.

Obama's your opening. You can't see that, too bad.

Mike Puckett wrote:

"Obama's your opening. You can't see that, too bad."

I am sorry, your crack pipe seems to be blocking the view. Perhaps if you put it down, we might.....

Peter wrote:

My question: How friendly would the candidates be to private sector operations in space without government interference? Until we get to the point of doing stuff without needing government money we're not meeting our potential in space.

Edward Wright wrote:

The rumor is incorrect on a couple of points.

It's Sean O'Keefe who's advising McCain, not Craig Steidle. (I guess all those ex-Navy guys look alike. :-)

Second, the statement that "Admiral Steidle has also adopted an EELV-based approach for Shuttle replacement" appears to be wishful thinking.

Prior to his departure from NASA, Steidle said that his top priority was to "decide how to get heavy lift" (not whether he should get it). Contrary to Dennis, he never demurred.

Toward that end, he was evaluating a number of heavy-lift concepts, some of which were EELV-derived, and some of which were Shuttle-derived. None of them were based on the existing EELV any more than ESAS is based on the existing Shuttle.

Edward Wright wrote:

Mike G, your information is out of date.

Obama's campaign has backed away from those earlier remarks and is now promising big budget increases for NASA.

McCain, on the other hand, has called for freezes in NASA and other domestic discretionary programs.

If you think NASA is "the" space program and judge how "good" a candidate is by how much money he promises to throw at it, then Obama would appear to be the best.

If you judge a candidate by how *well* they would spend the money, rather than how *much* they would spend, then neither candidate has said very much yet.

Or if you believe XCOR, Virgin Galactic, the USAF, etc. are also doing space programs rather than, say, potato farming.

Karl Hallowell wrote:

Edward, that's a pretty misleading thing to say. There's about a trillion dollars of discretionary spending in the Federal budget. What makes you think NASA is going to bear an unusual part of it?

Tom Hill wrote:

Edward, if you have any information from later in Steidle's time at NASA than this 2004 Space Review article:

please share it. In this interview, he was describing the trades that they were looking at, and stated that they'd need 'something in place' for heavy lift in 2014-15. That doesn't strike me as a statement of his 'number 1 priority.

Based on the presentation I saw him give in January, 2005 the architecture was so wide open that I don't think there was a priority list yet.

Edward Wright wrote:

Karl, I didn't say that "NASA is going to bear an unusual part of it."

McCain said he would freeze NASA along with other Federal agencies.

Yes, I know NASA cheerleaders will say that treating NASA like ever other Federal agency is grossly unfair. Just as it's grossly unfair that "NASA gets less than 1% of the Federal budget" and "Americans spend more money on beer and pizza."

Of course, the National Park Service gets far less than 1% of the Federal budget, and no one thinks that's unfair. So does the 49th Fighter Wing, which flies far more missions (of far greater importance to America) than NASA does.

NASA employees will no doubt vote for Obama in the general election, for the same reasons they voted for Kerry. They don't generally consider space to be a very important issue -- read Keith Cowing on why he voted for Kerry. Obama promising NASA a big budget increase is just icing on the cake.

The only thing McCain could accomplish by promising more money is to further tick off fiscal conservatives, who are tired of hearing *every* special interest group whine about how their program is such a tiny percent of Federal spending.

Edward Wright wrote:

Tom, heavy lift was identify as the top priority for NASA by the Lockhee -- excuse me, "Aldridge" --Space Commission, and Steidle reaffirmed that when he came onboard.

It's interesting to note, however, that McCain was the only Senator who publicly objected to the way the Commission was stacked with contractor representives with conflicts of interest.

Given McCain's frequent concern with process and propriety, and his demonstrated willingness to overturn existing contracts, his election might possibly lead to trouble for Lockheed.

Perhaps EADS would end up building Orion, too???

Elephant Felcher wrote:

The Moron plans to vote? That's news, considering he has said right here that he does not vote.

Mike Puckett wrote:

"NASA employees will no doubt vote for Obama in the general election, for the same reasons they voted for Kerry."

Ed, the NASA employees union endorsed Kerry.

That does not mean a majority of rank and file employees followed this recommendation.

What evidence do you have to support this assertion?

If NASA employees automatically press the 'D' button, why is Nick Lampson scared shitless he is going to lose his seat?

Edward Wright wrote:

Ed, the NASA employees union endorsed Kerry.

That does not mean a majority of rank and file employees followed this recommendation.

So, tell me, Mike, who elected those union officials? And why doesn't the rank and file vote them out, if they don't represent the rank and file?

Your statement is like T.L. James saying that virtually everyone at Lockheed is conservative or libertarian but at the same time, he has to be careful about expressing conservative/libertarian views in his blog. It doesn't compute.

What evidence do you have to support this assertion?

You mean apart from the union endorsements, the NASA employees I have met, the NASA employees interviewed in the press, even the names of NASA centers like Kennedy, Johnson, Glenn?

None, I guess. What evidence do you have, Mike?

If NASA employees automatically press the 'D' button, why is Nick Lampson scared shitless he is going to lose his seat?

Do you think everyone in Lampson's district works for NASA?

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on June 6, 2008 2:29 PM.

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