26 September 1997
News - Other (None)
NASA is obstructive claims ex-head
Ex-NASA boss claims NASA is obstructing commercial space activities
by Patrick Collins
US Law requires NASA to encourage the commercialization of space activities as much as it can - but it's doing the opposite, apparently.

Normally the "Old Boys' Club" of past heads of an organization are pretty close. So when a past NASA boss criticizes the current one, it raises eyebrows. Recently former administrator James Beggs has laid in to current NASA boss Dan Goldin, saying NASA has "obstructed commercial space activities instead of encouraging them".

Of course Mr Goldin is used to controversy, as he tries to refocus NASA - but like the head of any organization, he basically has to fight for its interests. And, as a cold war institution that's lost popular support, NASA is searching for a role in the modern world - not to put itself out of business.

Now that a bunch of companies are finding it possible to raise money to develop launch vehicles commercially, NASA's efforts in the same direction make their lives more difficult. So the criticism is mounting, and even James Beggs has joined in.

Critics argue that NASA could get popular by helping companies trying to start space tourism services - while the fall in launch costs that would follow would benefit NASA by making many new missions feasible.
In addition NASA has a great influence on both the media's and the public's perceptions about space, and they could help considerably just by giving vocal support - and perhaps a fraction of their huge budget - to the budding commercial space industry.

However, the penny has yet to drop, and so the criticism will presumably continue and grow - the literal billion dollar question is, for how much longer?
Source: Space News, 8-14 September 1997

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Patrick Collins 26 September 1997
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