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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Pragmatism at NASA

In reading the report on Mike Griffin's speech at the Women in Aerospace breakfast (in Spaceref), I found a passage which I think shows Mike and I are on the same page.

He continued: "On the NASA side we have the obligation to come forward to the leadership with our view of the launch architecture as well - and our requirements. Now our requirements are going to be in the range of several tens of metric tons for the new Crew Exploration Vehicle and notionally 100 metric tons for heavy life requirements for return to the Moon. Those are the requirements. I personally don't care how they get met. NASA needs to be more than just about getting up the first hundred miles. We've spent far too long trying to overcome that problem. So, as NASA Administrator today, I already own a heavy lifter. That heavy lifter is the Space Shuttle stack - it currently carries the Orbiter. So every time I launch, I launch 100 metric tons into low orbit which, of course, is what we need for returning to the moon. So as I have said often, tongue in cheek, from the point of view of the cargo, the shuttle is a payload shroud - a rather heavy one. But the intrinsic capability of the stack is quite impressive. It's not quite up to where Saturn V was - but it's close - and it's there. So, I will not give that up lightly and, in fact, can't responsibly do so because, it seems to me, any other solution for getting a hundred metric tons to orbit is going to be more expensive than utilizing efficiently what we, NASA, already own." (emphasis mine)
I don't know if a shuttle stack heavy lifter is the best idea or not, but this is pragmatic thinking. Adapt, reuse, one might even say agile development of rockets. Just get to space.

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