Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dollars and Sense

Click the arrow to watch on YouTube Lori Garver's presentation.

On February 1, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver addressed the Space Entrepreneurship Forum at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

The San Jose Mercury News reported:

If all goes well, private entrepreneurs will launch a vibrant new space industry into lofty heights -- replacing the space shuttle, lowering the cost of reaching orbit, creating a space tourism industry, mining asteroids, and even exploring Mars.

Engineers, economists, future astronauts and top Obama Administration officials gathered at Stanford University on Friday at a "Space Entrepreneurship" conference, hoping to kindle a new vision for space through privatized spaceflight.

"We are placing our bets on American industry," said Lori Garver, deputy administrator for NASA. "Cargo flights under way are developing the capability of launching people to space from the U.S. on privately owned and operated rockets over the next three years."

Garver said in her opening remarks that if you add up the annual budgets for all the other space agencies in the world, it totals only three-fourths of NASA's budget.

She also spoke at length about the book Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dave Sobel. The book is about English instrument maker William Harrison, who won the British Parliament's prize for determining longitude at sea. The government's Board of Longitude was created in 1714 “to administer a scheme of prizes intended to encourage innovators to solve the problem of finding longitude at sea,” according to Wikipedia.

Garver drew a direct correlation between that contest three hundred years ago and the current commercial cargo and crew competitions NASA administers to foster private sector innovation that opens the door to Low Earth Orbit.

An audience member offered an analogy with the Pacific Railroad Acts which created the First Transcontinental Railroad.

For those who find today's Commercial Cargo and Crew Program Office unsettling, the reality is that governments have been creating partnerships with the private sector for centuries to stimulate transportation.

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