Now that she's left NASA, former Deputy Administrator Lori Garver has granted at least two interviews that glimpse into the porkery and myopia that harm today's government space program.
In the September 7 Orlando Sentinel, Garver suggested that the first test flights of Space Launch System may slip at least one to two years.
Lori Garver, leaving NASA after four years as deputy administrator, said NASA and Congress long have oversold the agency's ability to build the rocket, called the Space Launch System, and its Orion capsule on an annual budget of roughly $3 billion.
"It's very clear that we could have slips of a year or two," said Garver, referring to both the 2017 launch — which won't have a crew — and the first planned flight of NASA astronauts aboard the SLS rocket in 2021.
"People are more optimistic than … reality," she said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel.
Another interview posted September 9 on SpaceNews.com pulled no punches, as Garver took aim at the space-industrial complex interested in perpetuating the old way of doing things.
“Canceling tens of billion, much less $100 billion programs, is nearly impossible in government,” Garver told SpaceNews during her final week in the job. The 52-year-old space policy wonk begins a new career Sept. 9 as general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association.
“The relentless momentum of the status quo is very large,” Garver said Sept. 4. “And that is not unrelated to my view that we should utilize nongovernment resources, investments and partners whenever possible. Because those are the programs that are affordable and competitive.”
Although Garver was not cited as the source, the article suggests that the Obama administration quickly lost faith on NASA Administrator Charles Bolden due to his tendency to go off-message.
Bolden, a retired Marine Corps major general and former shuttle commander loyal to his troops and trusted by lawmakers, had quickly lost the White House’s confidence in his ability to explain and defend administration policy. During his first week on the job, NASA abruptly canceled a long list of scheduled media interviews with Bolden after the White House took issue with his performance during a televised all-hands meeting. Among the causes for concern, current and former administration officials have told SpaceNews, was Bolden’s off-script comments about the Moon and Mars and the role NASA would play in a National Security Council-led space policy review then getting underway. “When the budget came out, they were not comfortable he could defend it,” one official said.
Subsequent NASA press briefings often were held via teleconference with Bolden reading an opening statement before turning it over to Garver or another official to field questions.
Garver began work September 9 as the general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association.