Q&A: Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver Talks Commercial Space, ‘Bro’ Culture and Her New Book

NASA then-Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin for the dedication of the Spaceport America runway in 2010. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

by David Bullock
Staff Writer

Former Deputy Administrator of NASA Lori Garver came out with a new book in June titled, “Escaping Gravity: My Quest to Transform NASA and Launch a New Space Age.” The book is a memoir of her time in the space sector, particularly focused on her time in the Obama Administration where she spearheaded commercialization efforts. Here, we talk about the book and other topics about the government organization and the private sector.

Q. What is the most important thing(s) you want readers to take away from your book?

I think that the value of humans first exploring space was most directly tied to looking back and seeing our home planet and recognizing we are in this together. We often envision space being about just going to somewhere else, but we have learned so much about ourselves and our planet from just going to space. I would like people to recognize that the government program can focus on those priorities and reduce the cost of accessibility to space, so even more people, satellites can go to space for valuable purposes.

How has the move toward commercial space you led helped the U.S. space program?

NASA has always had commercial industry involved in our space program very closely. What we have been starting, decades before, was recognizing the things that are routine about space could be done by the private sector in ways that reduce the cost through innovation and opening new markets. Lowering the cost of space transportation by some of the policies that I helped drive has allowed us to take better advantage of the unique vantage of space and allowed NASA to focus, or should allow even more, NASA to focus on things that are uniquely important to the government.

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Projected Increase in Space Travel May Damage Ozone Layer

New Shepard (NS-14) lifts off from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas. (Credits: Blue Origin)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — Projected growth in rocket launches for space tourism, moon landings, and perhaps travel to Mars has many dreaming of a new era of space exploration. But a NOAA study suggests that a significant boost in spaceflight activity may damage the protective ozone layer on the one planet where we live. 

Kerosene-burning rocket engines widely used by the global launch industry emit exhaust containing black carbon, or soot, directly into the stratosphere, where a layer of ozone protects all living things on the Earth from the harmful impacts of ultraviolet radiation, which include skin cancer and weakened immune systems in humans, as well as disruptions to agriculture and ecosystems.

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NASA, ESA Finalize Agreements on Climate, Artemis Cooperation

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, right, and ESA (European Space Agency) Director General Josef Aschbacher pose for a photograph following the signing of two agreements at the ESA Council meeting in Noordwijk, Netherlands, June 15, 2022. The agreements aim to further advance the space agencies’ cooperation on Earth science and Artemis missions. (Credits: ESA/S.Corvaja)

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and ESA (European Space Agency) Director General Josef Aschbacher signed two agreements Wednesday at the ESA Council meeting in Noordwijk, Netherlands, further advancing the space agencies’ cooperation on Earth science and Artemis missions.

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Satellite Vu Partners with Landmark to Provide Vital Climate Change Data to the UK Land and Property Sector

LONDON (Satellite Vu PR) – Satellite Vu, the UK satellite firm set to become the world’s thermometer from space, have partnered with Landmark Information Group to provide vital climate data to the real estate market. 

The partnership will see Satellite Vu provide data from their thermal infrared satellites to Landmark, a leading provider of data to the UK land and property sector, to distribute to businesses as part of the global push towards Net Zero. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report re-affirmed the global aim to reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and achieve Net Zero by 2050, serving as a call to action for governments and businesses across the world.   

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U.S. Joins the Space for Climate Observatory

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — This week, the United States joined the Space for Climate Observatory (SCO) initiative, fulfilling the commitment made by Vice President Kamala Harris during her November 2021 visit to France.

Richard Spinrad, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) signed the SCO Charter as the lead agency for the United States. He was joined for the signing ceremony by Philippe Étienne, the French ambassador to the United States; Philippe Baptiste, Ph.D., Chairman and CEO of the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES), along with representatives of the White House, NOAA and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  

The Space for Climate Observatory is an initiative of the One Planet Summit under the leadership of CNES to combine satellite and in situ data with scientific research to model and track climate change and its impacts at global-to-local scales. It is also working to establish indicators and decision-support tools in a coordinated and cross-disciplinary fashion, including with social and economic sciences, to enhance the global community’s collective ability to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

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SpaceFounders, the Factory of Future Space Champions, Announces Recruitment of 2nd Class of 10 Startups

PARIS (CNES PR) — SpaceFounders, the accelerator for European space startups, whose goal is to identify and support future champions to enable them to become industrial leaders and amplify their impact on the structuring of the space sector, announces the winners of its 2nd promotion.

Services using earth observation data for sustainable development are in the spotlight this year. Space is an essential tool to support the agricultural and urban sectors in their necessary transition and to observe and prevent the impact of climate change. Space propulsion is another key theme of this second promotion, demonstrating the interest of the market for systems allowing maneuvers in orbit with an ever higher performance/cost ratio. The other topics covered are those of on-board artificial intelligence for autonomous systems in orbit, telecommunications and the Internet of Things by satellite.

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Seraphim Space Camp Launches Mission 9 for 7 Startups

LONDON (Serpahim PR) — Seraphim Space Camp is excited to announce the startups taking part in Mission 9.

Seraphim Space Camp Accelerator is the world leading VC led accelerator with a focus on SpaceTech, bringing in-depth industry expertise to get Seed and Pre-Series A SpaceTech companies “investment ready” while facilitating relationships with some of the world’s leading Space Corporates and Agencies. We are proud to report that 93% of the alumni from previous cohorts have successfully raised over $150m in total funding. Our accelerator is uniquely positioned to meet the demands of specialist startups operating in the space sector; bringing key stakeholders from the SpaceTech ecosystem together to genuinely accelerate startups.

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AWS Announces 10 Startups Selected for the 2022 AWS Space Accelerator

SEATTLE (Amazon Web Services PR) — Amazon Web Services (AWS) is pleased to officially announce the selection of the 10 participants for the 2022 AWS Space Accelerator. This year’s finalists brought forward pioneering ideas that will draw valuable insights from the depths of the ocean floor to the surface of the moon, and nearly everything in between.

This global group of emerging startups from across the United States, Asia, and Europe was selected from among hundreds of applications by a panel from AWS and AlchemistX. The selected startups each have an inspiring and innovative vision for how to transform the growing global space industry across a diverse set of mission areas, including Earth observation (EO), space situational awareness, launch and propulsion, and space exploration:

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GHGSat Joins ESA’s Third Party Mission Programme

BONN, Germany (ESA PR) — GHGSat, a leader in high-resolution greenhouse gas monitoring from space, has officially joined ESA’s prestigious Third Party Mission Programme. Announced today at the Living Planet Symposium currently taking place in Bonn, data from the company’s fleet of commercial satellites will be provided, free of charge, to researchers working in the fields of Earth science and climate change. Users will be able to access greenhouse gas measurements from sites all around the world.

Through ESA’s Third Party Missions Programme, ESA allows high quality data from a wide range of Earth observation satellite missions developed and operated by other agencies to be accessed to the wider scientific community. The programme, which has been operating for over 45 years, includes over 60 instruments on more than 50 space missions.

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Thales Alenia Space, OHB System Partner, Reaches Key Milestone in Development of Copernicus CO2M satellites

Thales Alenia Space CO2M satellite (Image Credit: Thales Alenia Space)

Cannes (Thales Alenia Space PR) –  Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has signed an amendment to its CO2M contract worth €169 million with project prime contractor OHB System for the development and qualification of the payloads for the first two satellites in the CO2M mission, part of Europe’s Copernicus program. Copernicus is the core satellite Earth-observation program of the European Commission and a cornerstone of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) activities in this field, providing Earth observation data for environmental protection, climate monitoring, natural disaster assessment and other social tasks. 

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NASA, Partners Offer Global View of Environmental Changes

NASA, ESA, and JAXA have created a tri-agency dashboard that combines their resources, technical knowledge and expertise to strengthen our global understanding of the changing environment and its economic effects. (Image Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Continuing the collaboration that produced the COVID-19 Earth Observing Dashboard in 2020, NASA and its international partners in Europe and Japan have combined the collective scientific power of their Earth-observing satellite data in expanding the online resource to document a broad array of planet-wide changes in the environment and human society.

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US Department of Energy Joins Frontier Development Lab

The Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office (AITO) of the US Department of Energy will partner with Frontier Development Lab to apply synergies between physics, simulation, and machine learning to clean energy, Earth science and climate resilience challenges.

Mountain View, CA (SETI PR) – The US Department of Energy (DOE) is joining the Frontier Development Lab (FDL) program to advance basic research at the agency. FDL is a public-private partnership between the SETI Institute, NASA, USGS, Google Cloud, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Nvidia, Trillium Technologies and other US and international partners.

FDL is an applied artificial intelligence research program that tackles fundamental knowledge gaps in space, Earth science and energy by pairing machine learning experts with subject domain experts. Research teams are supported by massive compute resources, relevant datasets and technology advisory from private sector partners for an intensive eight-week, paid research sprint over the summer. Teams address research challenges such as astronaut health, lunar exploration, heliophysics and climate change. FDL is excited to join forces with DOE and add challenge topics addressing critical DOE priorities, such as energy futures, climate adaptation and disaster response.

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International Satellite to Track Impacts of Small Ocean Currents

SWOT’s solar panels unfold as part of a test in January at a Thales Alenia Space facility in Cannes, France, where the satellite is being assembled. SWOT will measure elevations of Earth’s ocean and surface water, giving researchers information with an unprecedented level of detail. (Credits: CNES/Thales Alenia Space)

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission will explore how the ocean absorbs atmospheric heat and carbon, moderating global temperatures and climate change.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Though climate change is driving sea level rise over time, researchers also believe that differences in surface height from place to place in the ocean can affect Earth’s climate. These highs and lows are associated with currents and eddies, swirling rivers in the ocean, that influence how it absorbs atmospheric heat and carbon.

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