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NASA Admin Says World Cooperation Keeps Space Costs Down

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

Keeping costs down is the key challenge for NASA and other space agencies around the world, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Monday.

Bolden addressed top officials of international space agencies at the International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town, South Africa. Bolden said the U.S. government supports the space program but is demanding more value for its money.

International cooperation between NASA and other space agencies helps to keep costs down, Bolden said.

“It’s important for as many nations as possible to join in the exploration effort,” Bolden said. “No one nation is going to be able to do the things that we all want to do alone, so it’s very important for every nation to participate.”

Bolden added that cooperation will also include the private sector.

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One comment

  1. International cooperation does not necessarily reduce costs. In fact, it is more likely to increase total program costs. International cooperation should not be ruled out if it makes sense, but what NASA needs to do now is learn how to control it’s own costs. SpaceX reportedly spent about $300 million each to develop the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and the Dragon spacecraft. According to an independent report, NASA, with a business as usual approach, would have taken at least 10 times as much to accomplish the same result. It would probably have taken 20 or even 30 times as much.

    As another example, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will reportedly take about $5 billion to develop and build. By comparison, the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) on Mount Graham in Arizona cost about $200 million to develop and build, including instruments. The LBT has about 3 times the light collecting area as the JWST, so per unit collecting area, the JWST will cost about 75 times as much as the LBT! The design requirements, especially for weight and reliability, are much different for JWST than for LBT, but 75 times is absurd!

    There is a natural tendency for government bureaucracies to try to increase their budgets, but NASA carries that tendency to ridiculous extremes. It needs to stop ASAP if NASA’s human spaceflight program is to survive in the current budget environment

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