After concluding that U.S. President George W. Bush’s vision for future space exploration is unaffordable if NASA continues to be run the way it has been in the past, agency officials from Administrator Mike Griffin on down have started making major changes, particularly in the area of procurement, a top agency official said July 22.
Chris Shank, a special assistant to Griffin at NASA’s Washington headquarters, said the administrator spent Sunday, July 17, personally going over every page of the agency’s statement of work for the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) program, looking for requirements that he could eliminate.
“We’ve run the budget numbers and we can’t afford this plan if we do this as business as usual,” Shank said. “We can no longer have program offices with 300 people and all those reports.”
Shank said Griffin, in looking at the plan, kept asking questions like “What is this report? Why do we need it? Is this really necessary?”
Shank also said NASA is committed to making the CEV only a backup when it comes to getting crew and cargo to and from the international space station, and that private industry and the international partners will need to play a major role in providing those services. “That is the only way we will be able to afford the roadmap.”
Shank acknowledged that NASA is facing a number of large unexpected cost overruns on things like the space shuttle’s return to flight and the James Webb Space Telescope. He emphasized that each major program area will have to figure out how to deal with the overruns and will not be allowed to raid other parts of the agency for funding.
The return-to-flight costs will have to come from the human spaceflight accounts, Shank said. Similarly the cost overruns on the Webb telescope will have to be handled solely within the astronomy program. “We will not make budget trades that are science vs. exploration,” he said.
Shank noted that other NASA science missions, such as the Mars Exploration Rovers, are running longer than expected, putting additional pressure on agency budgets.