Dan Goldin's Comments to the Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC) Meeting

Goldin's appearance at the scheduled meeting was shifted several times during the day. He finally appeared at 4:15pm and stayed nearly an hour.

The dialogue was structured like a speech with almost no interaction from the attendees, including Wes Huntress the AA for Space Science (seated next to Goldin). The room was silent for several minutes after Goldin left, as they appeared to struggle with the breadth of his challenge for the Strategic Plan.


NASA's future vision is fuzzy due to the political forces at work, and will remain clouded until a few months following the Elections. The NASA budget baseline, established last year, is under attack by both the Democrats and the Republicans, in the interest of a balanced budget.

The Democrats are proposing a reduction of $3.3B from the baseline through the year 2002, and the Republicans are proposing to cut $4.5B through the same period. Goldin's objective is to hold fast for $13.8 in '97, then look at what can be done to modify the numbers for '98 after the elections. His long term projection does not envision a significant turn around as greater pressure is placed on Civil Discretionary spending by the aging of the baby boomers.

Goldin lashed out at the "Pluto Express Cult" for the cost growth and attempt to create an old fashion entitlement program at the $.5B level.

Can't afford it. Need planetary spacecraft to be built on a desktop for 10's of $M, not in highbays for 100's of $M. Goldin claimed he has been "ruthless" with Huntress and JPL recently because they have not been responsive. Chastised them for not using New Millennium technology for Pluto. Acknowledged there is a tremendous problem at JPL destaffing as Cassini comes to an end. Goldin said NASA cannot afford to keep JPL active a current levels. Everyone must share the stress of the current budget environment. The SSAC must build a Strategic Plan that is realistic to what can be afforded. Push Technology! Goldin wants to see subsystems on chips, no more printed circuit boards. The objective is to figure out how to cut the NRE to do the chip design and fab, the cost of the chips themselves will be negligible. He wants "NASA to be driving the development of technology in partnership with Industry".

Plans to spend $75M at Ames to do Data Product Development, then transition the technology to Industry to do the Hardware development for application to NASA and Commercial projects. Goldin envisions many spacecraft being built by Universities (many on the Committee represent Academia). To support that effort, Goldin has embarked on a "Bantam Lifter" program through Marshall to develop a system capable of putting 100Kg - 200Kg into LEO for $1M. He hopes that Wayne Littles and Gary Payton will produce something in 3 to 4 years. If successful, Goldin envisions 10 to 12 AOs per year for these small missions using about $60M of reprogrammed Code S money. (Huntress looked distressed). Goldin said the Committee needs to figure out what to do beyond the Great Observatories. Goldin spoke of the challenge he issued at the Astronomy Meeting in San Antonio, a few months ago, (related to the Origins of Life and the Universe ) and expressed satisfaction with the current efforts.

Emphasized that he only threw out the 6 to 8 Meter aperture as a challenge. Goldin wants the SSAC to tell Huntress what technological breakthroughs are required to meet the science needs (heavy emphasis on Origins, large aperture optical and Interferometry). Goldin said he has not personally figured out what to do in the high energy regime yet.

Said he doesn't know enough yet. Recommended the SSAC link up with Cal Tech and MIT to explore the new thinking, and talk to Code X's equivalent Advisory Committee. Goldin said he is upset that NASA is not spending it's money on Science, but rather on building things using old technology over and over again. He sees Universities and small companies building the spacecraft of the future, and bigger companies must learn to behave as small companies - get more agile. Goldin said Big Companies are getting too big - there needs to be competition. Goldin doesn't accept the argument that you have to sacrifice reliability or quality to cut the cost of space hardware. He wants the Science community to retire the risk of new technology by flying low cost experiments on GAS Cans and piggy-back on Pegasus missions (a plug for "Microlab" missions for OSC).

He said if the number of missions can get to 10+ per year, we could afford to lose a few. Goldin said NASA is looking at going from Small Sats to "Microsats", to cut cost without sacrificing quality or reliability. Goldin said Peer Review ought to dominate the Science community. Said the Scientists ought to "go at each other" and let the best ideas prevail.

Goldin turned to International missions. He said NASA is doing an OK job at structuring International cooperation on major efforts. He said the South Koreans just came to see him and are planning to spend several $B's on space. He cautioned against wholesale tech transfer but suggested cooperative efforts were very desirable. International participation is a terrific multiplier of resources. He complimented Boeing for their methods of building teams overseas on 777 to protect the high value-added, system level work, while helping sell more product by placing hardware builds strategically to take advantage of foreign subsidies. These type of programs are more difficult but the US cannot afford to do major missions alone anymore. Goldin said he is ready to support more cooperative missions. He voiced concerns about SIRTF being all US, and suggested he would like to look at reopening the program. But allowed that it may be too late to effect SIRTF, but said he wants international content on future major programs.

Goldin said he envisions NASA bonding tighter with DoD on technology development, but not on "shared application" spacecraft. Goldin believes there is strong reason to work more closely with NSF and DoE. NSF is already on board for NGST. Feels DoE offers unique capability in the high energy research arena.

Goldin wants the SSAC to really stretch when building the Strategic Plan.

He wants a prioritized list of programs, identifying what Science / Missions the Community must have (few and well supported), what the Community really wants, and what would be desirable if funds permit. Must be willing to come to the table and negotiate realistically within the funds available.

Addressing the proposed personnel cuts at NASA, Goldin claimed 50% of US corporations have management headcounts <.7% of total population. NASA has 8% of the population at HQ. Goldin has feedback from the Foster Commission that HQ is micromanaging the Centers and the added work is not value added. He estimates by going from the planned 1400 level to the new 700 head level at HQ, he can save $56M per year that he can then spend on Science. Goldin said he was announcing today at NASA HQ the movement of 40 more SES positions out of HQ out to the Centers. He strongly implied it will be up to the Centers to determine if those jobs are necessary as they wrestle with outyear budget priorities. Goldin said he cannot tolerate people at the Centers going to Congress to protect sandboxes. The pain of restructuring NASA must be endured with an eye toward the end product, not protecting pet projects. He "suggested" Huntress should warn people if they do it once, then replace the individual if the infraction is repeated.

Goldin said he plans to sharply reduce the amount of travel by Agency personnel. He believes with new TeleVideo Conferencing and other Communications capabilities, the need to spend money and productivity on travel is not as necessary as it was in the past.

Goldin closed by passing out copies of the Seven questions he said the Agency ought to address in a recent Science Magazine article. Goldin asked for feedback from the Advisory Council and asked that they incorporate a subset of the questions in the Strategic Plan.

The hardcopy materials from the entire SSAC meeting will be forwarded separately, but a synopsis of the basic Questions posed in Goldin's A Proposed Integrated Approach to Focus NASA's Mission, reportedly submitted to Science Magazine:

1. How did Galaxies, Stars, and Solar Systems, and planetary bodies of all kinds form and evolve?

2. Is life of any form, however lowly or complex, carbon based or other, unique to planet earth?

3. By looking out at other planetary bodies and at Earth as a planet, can we develop predictive environmental, climate, natural disaster, resource identification and resource management models to help insure sustainable development and a high quality of life?

4. Can we develop the Aviation Technology that provides fast, affordable, and safe transportation to enrich the cultural and economic lives of all the world's people -- while preserving the environment and assuring enhanced global security?

5. NASA needs to develop affordable tools to answer questions 1-4. (additional observations involving Technology affordability and Commercial spin-offs).

6. How do we most effectively communicate the knowledge we gain to the American People to educate them and provide commercial opportunities?

7. How can we bring understanding among the nations of the world and improve the productivity of the space program through international cooperation? How do we protect the high priority American interests at the same time?

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on June 17, 1996 11:50 AM.

House Science Committee Democrats Comment on H.R. 3322 Passage was the previous entry in this blog.

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