One of the persistent problems with NASA in general — and NASA headquarters in particular — is that the bureaucracy proper often does not take seriously our legal mandate to promote the use of commercial space to the maximum extent practical.
In the case of Florida’s request for land at Kennedy Space Center to help the state create a commercial launch complex [“Florida, NASA Wrangling Over Spaceport Real Estate,” Feb. 4, page 9], it appears the agency has no planned use for this property, other than to let it sit there, and there is at least one valid commercial space purpose it can be put to. Yet the agency uses as one excuse that the property has not yet been listed as “excess” as a reason to possibly do nothing at all.
Those of us within the agency who promote the commercial use of space — as we all in NASA are required to do — run into this attitude constantly. While I honestly believe that the top two people in NASA support commercial space (and in meeting our mandates), middle-level executives often do not support that attitude and will generally not change unless someone forces them to.
The recent Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference had quotes from many people saying essentially the same things, but two of the most important were multiple spaceport officials lamenting that a federal agency is not following national policy, and this statement by John Olson of the White House staff: “Commercial space is not a goal — it’s a mandate.”
The writer has worked at three NASA centers in 38 years with the agency.