As others have pointed out, the presence of Mike Griffin on this apparently-hastily-assembled list of Mitt Romney’s advisors on space policy is utterly appalling. But what of Gene Cernan, the “Last Man on the Moon”?
He doesn’t seem very confident in commercial space:
Do you have any hope for commercial space efforts, like Space X?
It has been the commercial space industry, under NASA’s leadership and guidance, that has allowed us to get to the moon and build a shuttle and everything that has happened in the last 50 years. To entirely turn it over without any oversight to the commercial sector, which is a word I question anyway, is going to take a long time. Some of these guys are highly qualified, but some are young entrepreneurs with a lot of money, and for them it’s kind of like a hobby. Not all of them. But some of them are making claims to get into space in five years for $10 billion, and even the Russians say it’s going to take twice as long if we put our eggs into that basket. I don’t have a lot of confidence in that end of the commercial space spectrum getting us back into orbit any time soon. I’d like to hear all these folks who call themselves commercial space tell me who their investors are. Tell me where their marketplace is. A commercial venture is supposed to use private money. And who are their users? Suppose we, NASA, have no need for their services. There’s no other marketplace for them. So is it really a commercial venture, or is it not? Is it a group of guys who have stars in their eyes and want to be a big space developer? I don’t know.
I don’t think they’ll come anywhere near accomplishing what they’ve said they can do. I said before Congress, and it’s still true today, they don’t yet know what they don’t know. We, if you’ll allow me to include myself with NASA, have been doing this for half a century. We have made mistakes. We’ve lost colleagues. Don’t you think we’ve learned from some of those mistakes? You bet your life we have. They have yet to learn from those mistakes. And I’m not willing as a taxpayer to sit here and pay them to make those mistakes before they can ever get where they think they can go. Now the good news side of this is there are some of the larger aerospace companies looking into getting into it, the Boeings, the Lockheed Martins, the ATKs, are now looking to compete in the commercial side of the business. That’s a little more encouraging. Those are the folks who have been working on everything we’ve done for the last 50 years. They know how it can be done.
Not encouraging at all. Would I still vote for Romney over Obama, knowing this? In a heartbeat. Putting out of office the corrupt and dangerously incompetent disaster currently in the White House would be worth the (manageable) risk of strangling the Obama space policy in the crib. Would we need to keep a sharp eye on a President Romney’s space policy to make sure Mike Griffin and others with Griffinian proclivities couldn’t pull the stake out of the heart of Constellation and resurrect his dream rocket at the expense of a non-NASA-dependent space industry? Absolutely. But when has there not been a need for space advocates to stand watch on space policy?
UPDATE: Interesting that Robert Crippen, another Romney space advisor, served as president of Thiokol Propulsion.
Scott Pace [PDF] was head of program evaluations at NASA during the Griffin years, and at least as of last August Pace was promoting a return to the Ares I/Ares V architecture (as a better alternative to the SLS, believe it or not):
“Ironically, the budget pressures being put on the program right now would in my mind argue for returning to the previous plan,” Pace said, “which was launch and build Ares I first and build Ares V later.”
Ares I was the first and smaller of tworockets in the now-canceled Constellation program, which also included a Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) that is being constructed. Ares I, which could have taken astronauts back to the moon, was being developed in Huntsville by many of the aerospace workers now facing layoffs.
For Pace, Ares has several positives. First, a lot of money and time have already been spent on it, and that work would feed into the larger rocket later.
“You build on the work that was already done,” Pace said of Ares I. “You can fly the MPCV. You have five-segment solid (rocket motors) that are already done. You have a use then on the upper stage for the J-2X engine, which is also in development.”