Thursday, November 15, 2007

A View of NASA's Future (Lori Garver speech)

I was in attendance earlier this week when Lori Garver, space policy advisor to Senator Hilary Clinton's Presidential campaign, was a lunchtime speaker for the American Astronautical Society's National Conference.
Garver’s talk was mainly an effusive pitch for her candidate, but there was more to it than that.
She restated Clinton’s policy and also reported the limited information she’d found on space statements by other candidates.
Here is her assessment of the two leading Democrats and three of the Republicans:
Senator Clinton: Promised increased support of aeronautics, Earth science, and robotic exploration, accelerating the development of Ares/Orion to avoid a “brain drain” when the Shuttle retired in 2010, and continuing to pursue human exploration, including lunar and eventually Martian ventures (NOTE: she did not specifically commit to NASA's current timetable for when humans should be on the Moon).
Senator Barak Obama: NASA is inspiring, but the agency should “do fewer things better” and must operate in light of a strict budget environment.
Governor Romney: Has not formed a policy yet, but said he’s seen no reason so far to change President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration (VSE)
Senator McCain: strongly in support of the VSE, including sending humans to Mars
Mayor Giuliani: Strongly supports an “aggressive space exploration” program.

Q and A

Q: I was able to ask a followup about what Senator Clinton’s policy meant for NASA’s topline.
A: Senator Clinton cosponsored the Senate-passed bill to add a $1B supplemental to NASA’s budget to make up for Katrina costs. Garver was asked by one of the Senator’s aides to make an estimate on what was needed to support Clinton’s NASA policy. She reported that adding the current $1B proposal to NASA’s budget and making that increased figure the new bottom line for smaller annual increases should do it. Garver said the current budget for exploration was “robust” and didn’t need a hike to carry out the new policy, but the other areas did need new money. She said her estimate was accepted by the campaign.

Q: What qualities do we need in the next NASA Administrator?
(NOTE: Garver has been mentioned as a strong possibility if Clinton is elected.)
A: The thing our recent administrators have not been able to do is better engage with, and be responsive to, the public, and that will be a key attribute to look for. Garver mentioned that, like many in the space community, she held up James Webb of the 1960s as the ideal Administrator.

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