NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver visited two commercial space companies earlier this month in Las Vegas and Boulder, Colo., in a series of meetings that could be characterized as “kicking the tires.”
Garver, a longtime proponent of commercial spaceflight who exemplifies the government’s new approach for the space agency, is leading NASA in its partnerships with commercial space companies in developing innovative technologies.
She met with officials at Bigelow Aerospace facilities in Las Vegas and Sierra Nevada Space Systems in Boulder.
NASA’s new partnership with the private sector has ushered in a bit of an identity crisis for the space agency. In May, President Barack Obama offered skepticism of the agency’s Hail Mary, “Shoot-the-Moon” Constellation program, which aimed for a return to NASA’s glory days with another moon landing by 2020.
“We’ve been there before,” he said. “There’s a lot more of space to explore and a lot more to learn when we do,” meaning the agency would instead focus on research and development and partnering .
In a Washington Monthly cover story last summer, Charles Homans characterized NASA’s thinking: “If NASA helps commercial companies get their rockets onto the launch pad … the agency’s human spaceflight program will finally be free of its expensive obligations to maintain its rudimentary orbit-oriented activities.”