Garver: Commercial Space Will Help U.S. Regain Market Share

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver spoke on Aug. 20 at the 4th Annual U.S. Space and Rocket Center Hall of Fame Ceremony & Dinner in Huntsville. Garver touched upon the increasingly international nature of space exploration and the Obama Administration’s controversial efforts to rely upon commercial vendors for human flights into Earth orbit.

We are (we hope) on the cusp of achieving big things. A few companies (established and emerging) already have systems for transportation, many whose heritage is right here in Alabama. We will oversee these rockets to ensure that the highest possible safety standards are met. The U.S. has lost a large share of the commercial market. There is a growing market for launch services internationally, and by other U.S. government agencies and the private sector, both traditional markets and new ones. There is huge untapped potential for expanded markets, businesses, and jobs connected to launching cargo and eventually crew to orbit.

Some other key excerpts from Garver’s speech:

I was a child of the Space Race, no doubt about it, and am still amazed and thrilled that we now live in a time when our former competitors are our partners.

The question is no longer whether or not to explore, it is how best to explore. Now we have this great example of international partnership being proposed to have a life extended until at least 2020….

I also was fortunate enough to spend time in Star City taking on the same training as cosmonauts. I know a lot of you have heard about this and I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about it, but my time in Star City was invaluable to me. It meant a lot to me to raise the profile of the individual in space exploration. Not as a pilot or an engineer (though of course those highly trained and dedicated individuals ‐‐ many of you ‐‐ are the backbone of our astronaut corps), not as an exceedingly wealthy person able to buy a seat on a Soyuz, but as an average citizen, albeit one with a space‐themed wedding, remember. In addition to sincerely wanting to go to space, I wanted to show that space could one day be open to many, many more people than those who are able to access it today.

Everyone in this room knows about the transitional time in which we find ourselves. It’s a once in a generation shift from the program we’ve been pursuing for nearly 40 years, the Space Shuttle, which will have flown for 30 years when it retires next year. It’s a time when we plan our next path to the stars, and take steps to go even farther.

The Nation’s leadership has not yet reached a consensus on the details about the specific path forward, but many of the proposed strategic priorities proposed in the NASA budget request are included to a significant extent in the various bills: technology development to give us capabilities far beyond what we have today, increased lifespan for the International Space Station, greater commercial role in space exploration, greater support for Earth and other science, aeronautics and education, and providing the best value to the taxpayer.

I’d like to focus on one of the more controversial aspects of this proposed
transformation, but one that is not as radical as it seems, the commercial aspect.

NASA has been on this path since 1958. We are (we hope) on the cusp of achieving big things. A few companies (established and emerging) already have systems for transportation, many whose heritage is right here in Alabama. We will oversee these rockets to ensure that the highest possible safety standards are met. The U.S. has lost a large share of the commercial market. There is a growing market for launch services internationally, and by other U.S. government agencies and the private sector, both traditional markets and new ones. There is huge untapped potential for expanded markets, businesses, and jobs connected to launching cargo and eventually crew to orbit.

We believe it is time for the government to help to create a whole new sector of the economy that will produce jobs and innovation for years to come. This is precisely what has driven economic growth in this country for our entire history— government playing its critical role by investing in technology and industry doing what it does best—allowing us to spend less on operations and explore further into the universe. We’re continuing this quest that began here in Huntsville 50 years ago.

Those of you who have taken a personal interest in space and have done things like go to Space Camp, even as adults, who continue to reach out to grade school kids and college kids and lifelong learners, who have dedicated your lives to opening the space frontier, are going to see a lot of our dreams fulfilled in the coming years.

As I said the good news is that we’re debating how to do this, not whether or not we should, and that is progress. The shift is that the government may not need to be the operator of rocket systems whose sole purpose is to reach low Earth orbit anymore. We can facilitate other people who will do that for us. Meanwhile, we’ll be focused on sending missions farther into the solar system and achieving other astounding new things that will, in turn, inspire future generations. Things like humans visiting an asteroid, or robots sending pictures back from a destination we’ve never been such as the moons of Mars, and ultimately, the dusty soil of Mars itself.

The full speech is here.