Over the Moon? Not quite: NASA boss has a good whinge about 'counterproductive' Authorization Bill

It's all Boeing to go wrong unless everyone gets to come to the party


NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has dribbled a little something from the scorn bucket over last week's Authorization Bill, which both postpones boots on the Moon and turns the Lunar Gateway into a "Gateway to Mars."

As if trying to follow the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" edict, Bridenstine tried to find the positive, commending the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics for taking a bipartisan, consensus approach to things.

Such an approach is critical if NASA is to ever actually do anything, since its goals are usually very much in the long term. However, as well as a bipartisan approach, those goals do need to be relatively stable and, alas, it looks very much like lawmakers have change on their minds.

"I am concerned," said Bridenstine delicately, "that the bill imposes some significant constraints on our approach to lunar exploration."

It certainly changes things, not least the shift in the goal of achieving a crewed lunar landing from 2024 to 2028.

While Bridenstine would likely not weep too much at the prospect of an extra four years, the removal of the Gateway station from the Lunar architecture by the committee will set the nerves of the agency's international partners a-jangling.

The Register asked the UK Space Agency for its thoughts.

Sue Horne, head of Space Exploration at the UK Space Agency, said: "Our long-term goal is to participate in crewed missions to Mars and we view the Moon as a stepping stone to get there. The Moon is nearer and therefore cheaper and easier to test out the new capabilities needed for sending humans on long-duration missions deeper into our solar system. Complex missions like this will require government and the commercial sector working together."

Which is a bit of a problem. While NASA has been busy talking to commercial providers about the technology needed, including landing systems, the bill is quite clear that the US government must "retain full ownership of the human landing system".

"Without the dynamic participation of commercial partners," grumbled Bridenstine, "our chances of creating a sustainable exploration program are significantly diminished."

He also pointed out that getting to Mars was hard, saying: "We will need the flexibility to rapidly develop technical expertise using the Moon and to fully engage commercial and international partners," before describing the limiting of lunar activities as "counterproductive".

The agency, he said, "would appreciate more flexibility in defining lunar surface activities that may contribute directly to Mars exploration".

In other words, would you lot please stick to the law-making and let us get on with all that Buck Rogers stuff?

Given the long history of interference in the space programme by politicians with competing interests, we'd have to offer Bridenstine the best of luck before cracking open the popcorn.

If funded properly, the bipartisan nature of the bill should still see bootprints on the lunar surface before the decade is out, although there remains a real danger of a re-run of the unsustainable Apollo days.

Industry group the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) issued a statement pointing out that "any sustainable space exploration effort must bring together the best of government and commercial industry", warning that the bill, as it stood, "set NASA up for failure by eliminating commercial participation".

Still, Boeing will still get to build all those SLS rockets and the Exploration Upper Stage, so it isn't all bad in the commercial world, right?

While Bridenstine proffered his congratulations to the committee for, er, "this bipartisan consensus in favor of a Moon to Mars exploration program" but not much more, another commercial outfit that isn't Boeing continued with lunar ambitions of its own. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Cheers ransomware hits VMware ESXi systems
    Now we can say extortionware has jumped the shark

    Another ransomware strain is targeting VMware ESXi servers, which have been the focus of extortionists and other miscreants in recent months.

    ESXi, a bare-metal hypervisor used by a broad range of organizations throughout the world, has become the target of such ransomware families as LockBit, Hive, and RansomEXX. The ubiquitous use of the technology, and the size of some companies that use it has made it an efficient way for crooks to infect large numbers of virtualized systems and connected devices and equipment, according to researchers with Trend Micro.

    "ESXi is widely used in enterprise settings for server virtualization," Trend Micro noted in a write-up this week. "It is therefore a popular target for ransomware attacks … Compromising ESXi servers has been a scheme used by some notorious cybercriminal groups because it is a means to swiftly spread the ransomware to many devices."

    Continue reading
  • Twitter founder Dorsey beats hasty retweet from the board
    As shareholders sue the social network amid Elon Musk's takeover scramble

    Twitter has officially entered the post-Dorsey age: its founder and two-time CEO's board term expired Wednesday, marking the first time the social media company hasn't had him around in some capacity.

    Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter chief exec in November 2021, and passed the baton to Parag Agrawal while remaining on the board. Now that board term has ended, and Dorsey has stepped down as expected. Agrawal has taken Dorsey's board seat; Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor has assumed the role of Twitter's board chair. 

    In his resignation announcement, Dorsey – who co-founded and is CEO of Block (formerly Square) – said having founders leading the companies they created can be severely limiting for an organization and can serve as a single point of failure. "I believe it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction," Dorsey said. He didn't respond to a request for further comment today. 

    Continue reading
  • Snowflake stock drops as some top customers cut usage
    You might say its valuation is melting away

    IPO darling Snowflake's share price took a beating in an already bearish market for tech stocks after filing weaker than expected financial guidance amid a slowdown in orders from some of its largest customers.

    For its first quarter of fiscal 2023, ended April 30, Snowflake's revenue grew 85 percent year-on-year to $422.4 million. The company made an operating loss of $188.8 million, albeit down from $205.6 million a year ago.

    Although surpassing revenue expectations, the cloud-based data warehousing business saw its valuation tumble 16 percent in extended trading on Wednesday. Its stock price dived from $133 apiece to $117 in after-hours trading, and today is cruising back at $127. That stumble arrived amid a general tech stock sell-off some observers said was overdue.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon investors nuke proposed ethics overhaul and say yes to $212m CEO pay
    Workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability and, um, wage 'fairness' all struck down in vote

    Amazon CEO Andy Jassy's first shareholder meeting was a rousing success for Amazon leadership and Jassy's bank account. But for activist investors intent on making Amazon more open and transparent, it was nothing short of a disaster.

    While actual voting results haven't been released yet, Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky told Reuters that stock owners voted down fifteen shareholder resolutions addressing topics including workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability, and pay fairness. Amazon's board recommended voting no on all of the proposals.

    Jassy and the board scored additional victories in the form of shareholder approval for board appointments, executive compensation and a 20-for-1 stock split. Jassy's executive compensation package, which is tied to Amazon stock price and mostly delivered as stock awards over a multi-year period, was $212 million in 2021. 

    Continue reading
  • Confirmed: Broadcom, VMware agree to $61b merger
    Unless anyone out there can make a better offer. Oh, Elon?

    Broadcom has confirmed it intends to acquire VMware in a deal that looks set to be worth $61 billion, if it goes ahead: the agreement provides for a “go-shop” provision under which the virtualization giant may solicit alternative offers.

    Rumors of the proposed merger emerged earlier this week, amid much speculation, but neither of the companies was prepared to comment on the deal before today, when it was disclosed that the boards of directors of both organizations have unanimously approved the agreement.

    Michael Dell and Silver Lake investors, which own just over half of the outstanding shares in VMware between both, have apparently signed support agreements to vote in favor of the transaction, so long as the VMware board continues to recommend the proposed transaction with chip designer Broadcom.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022