I realize that over the past several months, ever since I started this blog, I’ve been pretty darn hard on Mike Griffin for the approach he’s been taking with NASA. I usually don’t like ripping on people that much. Griffin is a smart, talented guy. His heart is in the right place even if his actions aren’t. I guess the reason why I’m ripping so hard on his decisions is because I expect more out of him. Here’s a guy who at least knows something about the commercial world. Here’s a smart, creative person. here’s a guy who really feels that it’s important to help promote commercial space–because unlike some of the pundits and fanboys out there, he realizes that without commerce there will be no real space development. Griffin is probably the NASA administrator most likely to be able to help promote the commercial development of space.

As I said, I think the reason I’m so hard on him, is because I expect more out of him. The Innovative Programs idea that was pitched at the Return to the Moon Conference was rather good. Of all the NASA programs I’ve seen in years, if funded and not botched, this one has the most potential of really helping a commercial cislunar economy become a reality instead of just a dream. Unfortunately instead of focusing on it, and giving it the emphasis he ought to, he’s almost acting as though he’s embarassed. Like as though he realizes its a good idea, but is afraid of what the Congresscritters will think. Instead he’s been playing up reuse of a little shuttle hardware and building Apollo 2.0, expecting that we’d be impressed. Unfortunately, after having spent so long since Apollo with no access to the moon, some of the pundits really are impressed. I’m still not.

I tend to be just about as self-critical in real life as I am critical of others. One of my gifts or curses is the ability to see potential. I can often see what could be done if people acted competently. I see what I could do if I didn’t waste so much time on the internet. I see what NASA could do if it stopped trying to play pork politics. I see what the US could do as a nation if it weren’t content to merely be the best in the world. With that in mind, I’m not very happy with excuses. Merely being the freest nation in the world doesn’t mean much compared to how free we can and ought to be. When I hear pundits justifying our bumbling in Iraq with crap like “things are much better now than they were under Saddam”, I get disgusted. They darn well should be better than they were under a tyrant. I’m supposed to be impressed that our nation is at least not as bad as a thug like that?

Instead of comparing ourselves against others to excuse ourselves, we ought to compare ourselves against what we can and ought to become. Instead of saying “well this architecture is better than what we used to have”, we really ought to be thinking more about what the architecture ought to be. At least if we had the cajones to stand up to porkers, pundits, and ATK lobbyists.

Anyhow, as I said, I do think that Griffin’s heart is in the right place. Maybe he really will fight tooth-and-nail to make sure that Innovative Programs gets the funding it needs, and is run wisely. Maybe if some of those projects turn out as well as is possible, he (or whoever replaces him down the road) might actually be willing to change the architecture to something more sustainable, affordable, and commercial. We’ll see. There is still hope.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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One Response to Griffin

  1. Arthur says:

    Hi Jon,

    I’m wondering if what Griffin’s up to is giving “old NASA” a chance to show what it can do. If it can actually accomplish something exciting and new, great. How will the organization respond to the challenge? From things he’s said in public he seems to like to hedge his bets; maybe he has some cost-effectiveness metrics up his sleeve for a few years down the road that’ll make a switch to EELV/Falcons politically mandated, at least for crew launch?

    NASA’s a big ship with a lot of inertia; splitting shuttle into two vehicles makes it a lot easier to kill one of them down the road.

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