Since Design News interviewed NASA Administrator Dan Goldin last year (see DN 1/3/00, p. 160), the agency has seen well publicized failures (with Mars probes) and great success with space station construction and utilization. Here is Part II of an exclusive update with his perspective on these events and where our aerospace efforts are headed.
Design News: The Europeans have expertise in many technologies, such as X-ray and infrared astronomy. Are there any plans to link up with the European Space Agency (ESA) for technology in observatory missions?
Goldin: I don't feel that we need to work with people on technology; that gets a little sensitive [with technology transfer issues]. The Europeans are going to be working on chunks of the Next Generation Space Telescope operating in the near and long wave infrared. We work with the Europeans on many, many things.
Q: Would the Europeans be aboard interferometer spacecraft missions that could eventually lead to looking for extrasolar planets?
A: If they have cash to bring to the party. This a very tough field and not "one big happy feeling." But if the Europeans have some technical contribution to make that's significant, if they have the resources to fund it, we welcome them.
Q:On what other missions could the Europeans take part?
A: We are talking to France, Italy, Germany, and ESA about some of the robotic missions to Mars. The Europeans are involved with the Cassini mission [now on the way to Saturn and its moon Titan]. So there is broad-based cooperation.
But again, cooperation is not "Let's all get together and have a party." Each nation, and group of nations, has to decide what its priorities are. You pick a set of goals, and where there is something that a nation can bring to the table, we love it.
If they have a program that we can bring something to, we'll do it. It means that people have the resources and share a common set of goals and interests. You don't just cooperate for political reasons, that's when you waste money and time, and get frustrated. You only cooperate when there is a really good technical reason to do it.
Q: Regarding the Russians and the space station, with the delays they experienced in launching their portions, do you think we have to reassess the contract arrangements with them?
A: The Russians have taught us more than we've taught them. They have done a heck of a job and we should not blame them for all the delays. They were a convenient target, but our contractors were late.
The Russians have been very generous helping us understand their incredible knowledge of putting people into space. Now we have had some problems, and it has been frustrating, but the Russian government hasn't [financially] supported their space agency. Their space agency has performed beautifully considering the resources they've been given.
Q: There's been criticism lately that the first A in NASA (aeronautics) is getting short shrift. What do you say to that?
A: There are a lot of people in NASA who have been operating wind tunnels that should have been shut down, who are developing codes for building different parts of planes, who are dotting the i's and crossing the t's instead of doing revolutionary work.
There is always a tendency, because it is popular, to have prototype programs where you repackage yesterday's technology and call it cutting-edge research. A lot of the people that were engaged in NASA's aeronautics program liked to keep it the old way. What we are telling our [commercial] partners is "Are you going to want to use these wind tunnels and pay for them, or do you want us to be working on things where we'll really have forward leaps?"
Daniel S. Goldin Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The longest serving NASA administrator, Goldin's "faster, better, cheaper" philosophy has transformed the agency. According to NASA, it and Congress have produced a cumulative budget savings of more than $40 billion, and cut the civil service workforce by about a third, without forced layoffs; and they quadrupled the number of missions launched per year. The agency and contractors have reduced spacecraft costs by two thirds (along with a 40% cut in development time), and chopped a third off Space Shuttle costs—while improving safety and mission capabilities. Prior to coming to NASA, Goldin was VP and General Manager of TRW's Space and Technology Group.