Mike Griffin
 

Why Do We Want to Have a Space Program?
By Jim Hillhouse

AmericaSpace Note: The following remarks were delivered by former NASA Administrator Dr. Mike Griffin on 6 September 2012 for the inaugural lecture of Georgia Tech’s Gebhardt Lecture. It is used with permission by Dr. Griffin.

Michael D. Griffin
Chairman & CEO
Schafer Corporation
6 September 2012

Good afternoon. I am truly honored to have been asked to deliver the inaugural Gebhardt Lecture. Georgia Tech is one of the world’s great institutions, a place at which I am always pleased to be.

Before I begin, I must in fairness note that the views I offer today are entirely my own. They do not represent my company, or the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, of which I have the honor to be the current president, nor any other committee or association of which I am a member. They are solely my personal views. I am again honored that you have asked me to share them with you.

The subject of my talk today is one that, once upon a time, I would never have imagined offering. I mean, why do we want to have a space program? Wasn’t that a “given”? I once thought so. For more than fifty years, the exploration and development of space by the United States could have been characterized, without much exaggeration, as “all government, all the time”. There were exceptions, notably with regard to the commercial communications satellite industry, but they were just that – exceptions. Despite the entreaties of many who argued for policies designed to encourage the development of commercial space enterprises, space development remained essentially a government preserve. Things have certainly changed. Now, at least where the most visible symbol of the American space program – human spaceflight – is concerned, today’s policy environment is almost diametrically opposed to this decades-old paradigm. U.S. crew transportation to low orbit has been set aside as a commercial preserve, when and as that capability may appear, and new private space enterprises are in vigorous pursuit of defense and intelligence community markets as well. Today I would like to explore the ramifications of such policy shifts, and will try once again to say why I think we need a robust national space effort, even as much new space activity shifts toward commercial development. So, let’s recap a bit. Where were we, where are we now, and what are the implications of the shifts in space policy that we have seen over the last few years?

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