by Rick Tumlinson
SFF Founder and Board Member

The Space Frontier Foundation is calling on President Bush to appoint a tough new NASA Administrator to transform the agency into an organization capable of helping America open the space frontier – something the Foundation believes caan only be done by dramatically changing NASA’s culture while also changing its relationship to the private sector.

This means a leader who can take the next steps, cut the fat, transform the agency into a lean mean exploration machine, and enable the American people to get out there themselves.

“America is entering a new space age,” said the Foundation’s Rick Tumlinson. “For the first time in history, we have both a White House mandate to open the space frontier, and an emerging commercial space industry that is capable of doing so itself, with or without the government.

“The new administrator better understand this and take the right actions if NASA is to remain relevant, let alone succeed in its new mission without busting its budget.”

According to the Foundation, although Congress is giving NASA new funds to achieve its goals, this may be the last chance it has to demonstrate it can do things right and on a budget, before patience runs out.

That’s why they believe the agency needs someone who understands that business as usual will not suffice; who understands the concept of a frontier and the different but important roles to be played by both the public and private sectors.

It is time to make hard choices, between programs and projects that support the goal of permanent human presence beyond the Earth, and those that do not. To make the proposed return to the Moon permanent, the Foundation says NASA must end some costly old programs and hand off routine operations and landlord functions to the private sector so it can focus on exploration.

“NASA must invest in the future, not the past. Every dollar spent on dead ends such as the space shuttle is a dollar not spent on the future,” explained Tumlinson.

“The new boss will have to take on constituencies like the shuttle huggers, who are tying NASA to the past and wasting billions of taxpayer dollars. And the shuttle should not be replaced – in any form, large or small. It is time for the agency to get out of the passenger and payload business and get back to exploring and science.”

The Foundation believes the private sector is more than ready to take on space transportation. Instead of pouring billions of dollars into the development of new rocket programs or propping up old systems…which is wasteful, counterproductive and doomed to failure…a fraction of that amount spent on pay-for-delivery contracts and prizes would spur a whole new commercial space transportation industry.

Tumlinson amplified this point: “Traditional aerospace contracting is destroying NASA’s capabilities. It has already almost destroyed NASA’s single greatest resource, its ‘can do’ reputation. This is NASA’s last chance to change itself and shake free of those who have no interest in success as long as the money flows.

Whoever takes the helm at the agency must be decisive, ready to show some tough love, and be able to reach out to the private sector in new ways,” he remarked. “It is the only way to open the frontier to the American people, and that is a goal we all share.”