From the beginning, did you try to support trade partnerships with the space industry or did it develop out of necessity?
I would describe the goal as how to increase the efficiency of the fiscal dollar and reduce the cost of getting into orbit. Because then NASA may be doing more avant-garde, unique, interesting and important things in space.
Collaborating with the industry was not a goal. It was a result, a way to achieve a goal that we all share in space policy – from the Nixon administration – to reduce the cost of space transportation. Doing so with the private sector was something that began in the 1990s, and continuing these efforts was the way forward. We had lost almost the entire launch market to the French, Chinese, and Russians in the late 1990s, and we regained that market share by paying [private US companies] carrying cargo and astronauts to the space station was a great economic boom for the nation.
A few years ago, you said that NASA should abandon its “socialist” approach to space exploration. What did you mean by that, and still believe it?
This was in direct response to the space launch system and Orion, which Congress initiated after our proposal [to defund them] had not been accepted. Indeed, the launcher, the Constellation program, which the Bush administration established to track the launcher, and then SLS / Orion, were made in a government-run way that mimics a Soviet approach.
NASA collaborated in a commercial crew program with SpaceXi see Boeingto transport astronauts to the International Space Station. Would you say it was a predictable approach, after subsequent problems with Russia and how much harder it is to achieve? you fly in the Soyuz spacecraft?
I guess I feel less “foresighted” than was so obvious to me, and to so many people, that we didn’t want to rely on the Russians forever. On the one hand, they were a monopoly provider. They raised their prices and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. We needed our own systems, and ideally more than one.
Look, we had the experience with the shuttle: the government developed one. We had two accidents. After each of the accidents, he stopped for more than two years. So it was a little surprising that the concept seemed so controversial.
What kind of resistance did you face and from whom did you try to expand NASA’s support or partnerships for the private space industry?
At that moment, it seemed like everyone. At NASA, there was no support for leadership. As I say in the book, the head of NASA — I was his deputy — did not support me and did not ask for money for the [commercial crew] budget program. But I had led the transition team and talked to the president and was working closely with the White House Chief Scientific Adviser and the Office of Science, Technology and Politics, the National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget. Everyone was very much in favor of this policy. So it got into our budget without the NASA administrator or the senior leaders responsible for human spaceflights at NASA being really involved.