Frank Sietzen: September 2010 Archives

Frank's note: In these pages we have seen one disconnect after another on how poorly NASA sometimes produces its own message. An overwhelming majority of people have no idea what NASA does, other than Shuttle missions and the Hubble. Strangely enough though, according to a focus group done for NASA in 2008, when people are told some details about the space program, belief that it is important to the nation soars.

If you have had the need to interact with NASA Public Affairs folk, like Keith and I have done for years, the results are a mixed bag. Some are incredibly industrious, hardworking and endeavor to get you what you need when you need it. Others could care less, and act as if their job is to make it hard to get at information. Like it is a dwindling resource. One has to wonder if this extends to briefing members of Congress or even the White House. One thing is sure: if this doesn't change for the better and soon, NASA may have missed an historic opportunity to galvanize public support at a critical time in its history.

My question for NASA Watch readers: Let's say you were in charge of NASA Public Affairs for one month. And were given free reign by the Administrator. What or how would you improve things? Or is the situation too far gone?

Frank's note: Of all of the recent NASA Administrators (Goldin, O'Keefe, Griffin) former Marine General Charles F. Bolden, Jr. has given the fewest public appearances of them all. Excluding college commencements and STEM talks to school children, Bolden has been largely AWOL from the public square this summer. The face of NASA leadership, to the public, agency employees and the press has been that of Deputy Administrator Lori B. Garver. The last time Bolden went before the press it was Al Jazeerra. Need we say more?

The question of his advocacy's absence has raised, rightly or wrongly, questions about the support for the Obama Administration's own space plan, and that of the Administration for him as leader. All of this could change tomorrow, but as for now there is a perception of a rudderless NASA adrift waiting for Congress to decide how much of Project Constellation to cram down the agency's throat. Central to the heart of this issue is just how important is the NASA Administrator in today's political climate. Sandwiched between the President's policy (as directed under this President by the Office of Science and Technology Policy OSTP) and the priorities of the Congressional space committees, a NASA Administrator has little leeway for his or her own direction. If there are clear lines of authority, strong center and directorate managers, much of what an administrator does on a day-to-day basis seems perfunctory. In such a climate, the Deputy Administrator's portfolio, directing institutional change in the agency's structure and messaging, seems the more interesting lot.

My question for NASA Watch readers: If you were the Administrator of NASA, what would be your priorities, given the President's overall space plan? (no, you can't change the plan) How visible would you or should you be? And how would you go about educating the public on your agency's vital functions? Ideas?

Bolden Is Operating In Cloaked Mode These Days, earlier post

Rocket Motors to Nowhere?

Frank's note: Heaven forbid that the 5-segment solid rocket motor test would have blown up - nobody in their right minds would want that. But I have to ask why on Earth is NASA proceeding to invest time and money in testing boosters that may have no role in the future of human spaceflight.

The Senate seems hell bent on requiring NASA to develop the next Heavy Lift launch vehicle using "no less than four segment solids", but the requirement, contained in the report not the actual Senate bill, has yet to be lodged in the House version, still in play. Wouldn't it have been better to wait a few weeks and see how the House bill language winds up in the much anticipated CR. Would it have killed them? So far, Congress seems intent to make a Shuttle-derived solution the basics of a much-accelerated HLV launcher for as-yet undefined payloads to haul into deep space to as yet undefined destinations.


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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Frank Sietzen in September 2010.

Frank Sietzen: June 2009 is the previous archive.

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