The only way for NASA’s space initiatives to weather shifting political seas and limited budgets is to back programs that are affordable, sustainable and realistic, says administrator Charlie Bolden.
“Whatever systems we develop will have to fulfill three criteria,” said Bolden, the keynote speaker at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics meeting in Orlando this week.
“They’ll have to be affordable. That is the dominant criteria. They’ll have to be sustainable — systems that we can convince people are worthy so they’ll last over multiple Congresses and multiple administrations… and finally, they have to be realistic. We cannot continue to promise people that we will deliver something that we know in our hearts is not attainable,” Bolden said.
NASA is retiring the space shuttles this year and planning for a new launch system capable of sending people and cargo into deep space, beyond the space station, which orbits about 220 miles above Earth. Cargo runs — and eventually crew transportation to the space station — is being turned over to private industry.
“One of the reasons that shuttle is going away is because shuttle was never designed to go beyond low-Earth orbit and that’s not where the human species wants to live. We want to explore. We are a people, we are a species that has to explore and has to go beyond Earth orbit. We are working to make the commercial entities successful so we can still gain access to low-Earth orbit, but our job at NASA is exploration,” Bolden said.
Image: NASA chief Charlie Bolden at AIAA in Orlando. Credit: Michael Brown, Florida Today.