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Plenary Address Questions and Answers

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Plenary Address Questions and Answers

JANE WALES Questions

How large a reduction in our space research center infrastructure inventory do youenvision? How many centers do you suspect will have to be closed?


We have a space program that has done wonderful things for the people of this country and has inspired the people of the world. This infrastructure was set up to compete with the Russians. Price was not an object. What was crucial was how fast we could get things in orbit, and how big and complicated we could make it.

We now live in a new world, and we have got to get NASA to become a leading-edge research and development agency and get out of the operations business. We have formed a whole constituency during the Cold War, not just with the people in the industry but also with the people in the universities. They became accustomed to a program that dealt mainly in the advancement of science, but it was quite isolated from the American public and no one really recognized that the American public is the ultimate customer.

The scientific community looked a little too inward, and the American public has given us a very loud, resounding message: We love science, but you had better do it for less money. We love science, but you better make it relevant to us. We understood when we had to have national defense and the security of the United States was at stake and survival was at stake. We did not mind having these enormous increases in the United States budget for the science and investment account.

It is a new age. Stand up and recognize that this new age is here. You cannot dip your hook into the water and go to the Congress every time you want to start something new to get a new program. You have to decide what is your lowest priority and cancel it to make room for something new, because the United States government budget is not going up.

I have other arguments that say, "Well, maybe you should increase the investment account," but in reality, for the next few years, that is not going to happen, and to go argue for that will be terrible because we have real problems. We have talked about education, and the education budget is getting cut. So we at NASA were asked by the President of the United States to cut our budget another $5 billion over the next 5 years that is on top of the prior $30 billion we cut.

Up until now, we were able to cancel irrelevant programs that did not make a major contribution and restructure others. Now the hard part comes. We have an infrastructure that was designed for a budget at the end of the decade of $20-plus billion. Our budget is going to be $13 billion. So toward that end, we had better get with it and downsize the infrastructure. We are not about jobs in 1995; we are about jobs for the class of 2015. I do not want to sound harsh and cruel, but we have to get an infrastructure that has a modern system without overlaps.

Each of our NASA Centers had marketing departments to get new work for them, and there are marketing departments in a variety of other organizations that support us. That is not what we are about. We are about cutting-edge science, and we have got to get rid of the overlaps; we have got to get rid of the antiquated systems; we have got to have a peer review system that is more inclusive.

Our peer review system is not inclusive with a broad cross-section of America. So we are going to restructure the agency. We are going to find areas where the agency should not be doing things; we are going to cut it out, and we are going to strengthen and make sure everything we do is world-class. If a university has a better capability than that, we will transfer that function to the university or to an industry.

It is going to be very, very painful, and there will be loss of jobs, but the United States Congress, the American people, and the President have spoken. NASA is not just doing a budget exercise. We are preparing ourselves for the 21st century. As hard as it is to believe, we have computers that operate thousands of times faster in our scientific calculations than computers elsewhere. The computers that operate our administrative system are nonexistent.

When NASA was formed in 1958, we did not have modern, wide-band, digital, multimedia communications systems that were distributed, so each center became an independent city- state and unfortunately became more and more insulated and isolated with time. We are going to have a distributed, interactive mobile system. People and ideas are going to move electronically, and in a few years when we get done, NASA will be recognized not only as the center of excellence and technology but we will also be recognized as the center of excellence in management. We will treat our people humanely and with the dignity that they deserve, but we are going to downsize.

JANE WALES Questions

Will you estimate the savings effect of cooperation with the Russians on the space station? Do you see a role for international cooperation in a follow-on to the space shuttle?


With regard to the former, in just pure dollars and cents, we will save $2 billion if the station goes up 15 months earlier. I would say that is a wonderful savings. We have doubled the power we have, roughly 100 kilowatts instead of 50. If you want to build a scientific laboratory, power is absolutely essential for the science. We have roughly 40,000 cubic feet of pressurized volume instead of 20,000 cubic feet of pressurized volume. Again, that is crucial to science.

I cannot put a dollar value on it, but let me tell you, from a scientific standpoint I have gone from a condition of thinking the space station is good to one that it is outstanding. Then I think about the opportunity for collaboration. Our Russian friends do things differently than we do; they have a richness in their system that really amplifies the things that we do, so I think the science is going to be much more robust.

I think the opportunity that we are going to create in working with the Russians when their economy recovers (just in pure economic terms) because we were with them when they needed us, I think will create unbelievable opportunities for business with Russia. There are no guarantees there are risks. Who knows what is going to happen in Russian elections? Who knows what is going to happen in Russia? We cannot afford not to do it.

With regard to a launch system to replace the shuttle, I now get back to issues of national interest. The United States has not developed a new rocket engine in 15 years, yet we contend to be a space-faring nation. We have not developed a major new launch system in 25 years, and we contend to be a space-faring nation. Our commercial launch has lost 40 to 50 percent market share and is on the verge of losing almost all of it. So this is an issue when I talk about national leadership. What we are going to do now is leap-frog technology. We are not going to have "me too" technology with multibillion dollar programs. We are going to have focused, small programs, working with industry to prepare the industry with pre-competitive technologies. After we meet that first criterion and show that we can productize it, then it is time to do with a launch vehicle business what we do with aircraft, and that is the approach we need: Technological leadership. It is in the national interest right now to focus on technology in America.


Please join me in thanking Administrator Goldin. I invite you all to join us for a reception at which Deputy Secretary Deutch and Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall will be making some brief remarks; but first, enjoy the Air Force's String Quartet.

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