Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Charlie Bolden, Worst NASA Administrator Ever?

Gah! He's telling you the answer and you still can't answer the question.


  1. Still not as bad as Mike Griffin.

  2. Rand once said "I'd rather have good space policy implemented badly than bad space policy implemented well." or something similar, and I expect that's why he thinks Griffin is worse... cause he advocated his bad space policy way too well. Everyone seems to implement it horribly, I guess that's just the way government agencies roll :)

  3. I disagree that Bolden is not as bad as Mike Griffin. I think Bolden has no coherent goals in space, that he functions as a politician, and that his core motivation is to change things on Earth. Mike Griffin, on the other hand, seemed genuinely inspired by space colonization and did have a coherent goal of human spaceflight.

    I've tried to point out (on my new and excellent blog) some of the problems with Bolden. For one, NASA cannot inspire children without astronauts actually in space. For two, we cannot get to Mars in "days not months" without very powerful nuclear reactors, which I don't think Bolden is willing to fight for.

  4. I imagine you could do advanced propulsion with football field solar arrays.. and expect that's exactly what they'll end up doing. That can only mean good things for space solar power advocates.

    Griffin had a coherent plan for space... so long as the facts didn't get in the way. It looked good on paper, he was just unwilling to change course with billions down the drain.

    Also, his plans that in the video I quote - "to spend the next 10 years developing the capability this nation threw away" was not exactly visionary. We can and should do better, otherwise what's the point?

  5. From what I read the ISS arrays generate less than 250 kW electric, and they are collectively the size of a football field. Getting to Mars in 39 days is based on a VASIMR study that used 200 MW electric. I think a solar array this large would be vulnerable to MMOD, spacecraft exhaust, and maybe atmospheric drag.

    What specifically was Griffin stubborn on? If you're talking about Ares 1, I think it's difficult to predict whether the rocket would have worked out in the long run. Certainly a troubled program though.

  6. Anonymous8:37 AM

    Mars in 39 days requires nuclear power and any manned mars craft that is propelled by Vasmir will likely be nuclear powered.

    That being said SEP has lots of uses. It can be the primary propulsion for a NEO manned mission. It is also great for both lunar and mars cargo.

    It can also help reduce the propellant needed for a mars mission. For instance if you tug your mars bound craft to say l1/l2 you then only need .77KM/s to escape earth orbit vs. 3.22KM/s in LEO. This could save quite a bit of propellant. You can also carry chemical(or nuclear)propellant that you don't need yet ahead closer to the point where it is needed.

  7. I don't think Bolden's the "worst" NASA Administrator; I do think he's the saddest, or the most constrained or the least powerful Administrator NASA has ever had, with the possible exception of James Beggs. Most NASA Administrators get to start new programs (Mike Griffin) or at least to steer the agency in the direction of new programs (Dan Goldin); Bolden's task is dismantling programs and repeating White House arguments for inactivity.
    Hardly surprising the Obama administration had such problems persuading him to take the job in the first place!

    My suspicion is that Bolden will be not only the least but the last NASA administrator. There aren't many benefits to the US government in running a visible manned space program, there doesn't seem to be need for a secret program, squabbling with Congress over program direction is a pain, the risk of losing astronauts in flight is a constant headache, and worrying about rivalry from Russian or Chinese programs a generation from now is unrewarding. The same sort of remarks might be made about the larger scientific programs, you'll note. So I'd not be surprised to see the Obamna people or the next administration attempt some space program "reforms" which replace NASA with a much less ambitious space launch and operations agency. This would drop space policy back into the hands of the White House, DoD and NSA, and perhaps the NSF; the smaller space agency could be run by someone on TDY from the Pentagon.

  8. Anonymous11:12 AM

    Bolden and Obama were left cleaning up W's mess. CxP was nothing but a boondoggle for the prime contractors. They've been gorging themselves at the trough of corporate welfare for decades, enjoying not only monopolies on the shuttle parts they build, but a rationale to be the most expensive in the world. They managed to squander $10 billion dollars on Ares I with nothing to show for it. It's actually pitiful the watch their little yipyap dogs shill for them in congress.