A Pioneering NASA Administrator

I have new post up at Air & Space discussing the “Pioneering Doctrine” devised by Rep. Jim Bridenstine as part of his American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA).  Although not yet a passed law, this doctrine is informative about his thinking on the rationale and strategic objectives of our national space program.  Comment here if desired.

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15 Responses to A Pioneering NASA Administrator

  1. Joe says:

    Could not agree more.

    Especially this point:

    “One approach might be to tightly integrate robots and humans into mission plans, whereby they work together to accomplish new and previously unreachable objectives.”

    This approach will meet considerable resistance (in particular in the robotics program), but it has to be done.

  2. Grand Lunar says:

    Interesting info.

    Bridenstine’s discussion on military capabilities seem to relate to an idea of the development of a Space Corps.

    Encouraging to see his view that we won’t get to Mars on the current path. Perhaps sanity may yet prevail.

    Incidentally, it is revealing to see what others are saying elsewhere about the Bridenstine, offering the usual New Space fan boy tunnel vision.

    • Paul Spudis says:

      Bridenstine has a lot of connections to the “New Space” community and supports many of their efforts, but he also recognizes the importance of federal government involvement beyond LEO. Supporters of both camps should be encouraged by his nomination.

      • Vladislaw says:

        When he mentions the Pioneering Doctrine in the Act. Is he talking about actually having that added to NASA’s official mandate as listed in the Space Act of 1958?

        I would like to see that added buy wonder if that could get through congress?

      • Grand Lunar says:

        What I referred to with my comment on New Space are opinions on sites that referred to Bridenstine’s views as being archaic, with his support of federal involvement, such as the SLS.

        On such sites, the impression I get is that they only want New Space, with no federal involvement. They don’t think we can have both.

  3. Robert Lucas says:

    Going to the Moon means that all this stuff, security as well, would get sorted out piece by piece (or not, of course) as we gradually expand outwards. The world is not just America, after all. Many things have to be done over time. Given enough time we will do it all, what we need now is the best course of action for where we are now.

  4. Gordo says:

    “Such a symbiotic relationship between robotic and human spaceflight was utilized and proven during assembly of the International Space Station and should now be applied to missions beyond low Earth orbit.”

    I would dispute this analogy as this is a real stretch to think there was any robotic presence on ISS that did anything. The ISS was and is a big dumb 3 bedroom satellite in orbit, as was Skylab and Mir with less capacity. A lot more technology would be required for robotics to be useful in preparation for human presence on a distant destination surface. ISS is probably a poor example.

    • Paul Spudis says:

      The only difference between teleoperated robotic mining on the Moon and assembly of ISS pieces in orbit is the location of the teleoperator. I think both are essentially the same activity, with minor differences — the key similarity is coordinated work by machines and people to build structures and platforms in space.

  5. jebowenag79 says:

    Very encouraging article. Hopefully Administrator Bridenstine will preside over exciting times, in a good way. Perhaps a balance can be struck between the science uber alles crowd and the development folks, to the benefit of us all.

    Re: “In fact, by discarding the Space Shuttle in favor of “commercial crew transport,” we lost capability and saved nothing.”

    From the last Shuttle to the first commercial crew launch has definitely been a tough time. However, I would argue that the return to normal operations, as in Starliner and Crew Dragon, after 50+ years of the aberrant idea that we can only allow travel on craft extensively monitored by thousands of civil servants. Further, gaining back this little bit of sanity is worth more than any one single exploratory or science mission, or any single launcher, even the Shuttle.

    Let NASA do the difficult first attempts, demonstrations, explorations, combining, as you said, robot and human explorers – with the sure understanding that after NASA shows it could be done, it contracts operations in a routine and competitive way. Then let NASA have the freedom, and room within its fixed budget, of moving on to the next hard challenge.

  6. I think its pretty obvious that the robotic exploration of the lunar poles and the moons of Mars should be the principal priorities for NASA’s unmanned space program. Just how much hydrogenous, carbonaceous, and nitrogenous molecules are at the lunar poles? We need to know!

    And the same goes for the moons of Mars, IMO.

    These regions should have been extensively explored by NASA robotic vehicles way back in the 20th century.


  7. Philip Backman says:

    Hello Paul,
    Is there any likely hood that the scientific community would graciously concede future robotic exploration missions to Mars and beyond in favor of the types of missions you and Tony Lavoie have proposed for the lunar poles? I find myself wondering, just how many deep space rocks do we need to explore before we decide it is time to pull back, focus, and learn to exploit near space lunar resources? In the long run, if the exploitation is successful, it would then open up these deeper regions of space in a much bigger way.

    I was impressed that Mr. Bridenstine said that the discovery of ice on the moon should have changed the direction of NASA. I agree.


    • Paul Spudis says:

      Is there any likely hood that the scientific community would graciously concede future robotic exploration missions to Mars and beyond in favor of the types of missions you and Tony Lavoie have proposed for the lunar poles?

      No. But when we wrote up our architecture seven years ago, we assumed that all funding would come from the exploration (i.e., human spaceflight) budget, as it was from that portion of the budget that the Augustine committee said that “lunar return is unaffordable.” We wrote our original paper largely as a response to this ridiculous statement. We proposed to spend on the order of $7 billion or less per year to establish a lunar outpost. I still think that’s doable, although some re-balancing of the agency’s portfolio may be necessary.

      The alternative is to continue to spin our wheels, spending money to get nothing.

  8. Michael Wright says:

    My concern is Bridenstine being a Republican he will have to be opposed to climate science/global warming/whatever per party agenda. However, one of the several discussions on NASAWatch that Bridenstine did vote for a bill to fund a satellite (or something of that, I just saw a glance out of zillion posts). He is from tornado country so earth observation is important for his voters.

    Regarding SLS, it is here to stay. Love it or not, deal with it. I don’t think it is sustainable and will never scale up to multiple flights but lets see how it can be utilized. At least Bridenstine is considering commercial space unlike many others see these two paradigms as either/or.

    Rebuilding capabilities would be nice but it can come at expense of laying off people. “Increase efficiency, streamline, more cost effective, etc.” typically means someone will lose a job (why Okeffe and VSE never went beyond 2005 because many congressmen saw a lot of “arsenal space” funding for their districts will dry up).

    I hope rebuilding capabilities will provide funds to upgrade decades old facilities with leaky roofs and broken HVAC systems.

    It does look promising that the Moon will get attention. PLEASE stop this nonsense of the Moon as a stepping stone to Mars. Show that a well establish Moon base will provide resource at industrial grade instead of working on a lunar exit strategy before we even get there.

    • Joe says:

      It depends (at the risk of sounding like I am making a bad joke) on how you define Climate Change.

      (1) Current knowledge/technology allows defining that the earth has one single temperature and that the single temperature can be defined now and one hundred years from now to within a fraction of a degree.

      (2) The climate is constantly changing for a variety of reasons (perhaps including human activity). These changes need to be studied/evaluated as even cyclical changes can have large impacts. These studies would require large orbital platforms that would be greatly expedited by development of lunar resources.

      Bridenstine appears to accept definition (2).

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