Apollo Legends Support Commercial Crew Down Select

Eugene Cernan

Apollo commanders Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan and James Lovell have sent a letter of support to Rep. Frank Wolf supporting the House’s demand that NASA immediately down select to one commercial crew provider and transition to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) based contracting.

“Our recollection is that FARs exist to protect taxpayer investments and the best interests of the government by reducing risk in procurement,.” the retired astronauts wrote. “They were developed over years of experience and represent lessons learned and best practices in contracting. We are generally unfamiliar with Space Act Agreements but understand that they include little in the area of requirements and would be unlikely to provide the documentation that we normally depend upon to provide high confidence in reaching our technical goals.”

Read the full letter after the break.

Frank R. Wolf
Chairman, House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science

Dear Chairman Wolf:

The FY13 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill includes language directing NASA to immediately engage in Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) based contracts for the Commercial Crew program. It also calls for an immediate down-select for the program. We are not experts in contemporary government contracts, but that language seems very reasonable and appropriate to us. We believe your committee has the expertise and resources to determine whether the approach is proper and practical.

Our recollection is that FARs exist to protect taxpayer investments and the best interests of the government by reducing risk in procurement. They were developed over years of experience and represent lessons learned and best practices in contracting. We are generally unfamiliar with Space Act Agreements but understand that they include little in the area of requirements and would be unlikely to provide the documentation that we normally depend upon to provide high confidence in reaching our technical goals.

It seems unlikely that NASA will receive significant budgetary relief in the foreseeable future.  Consequently, it is mandatory to maximize return on the limited funds available to access low Earth orbit. An early down-select would seem to be prudent in order to maximize the possibility of developing a crew-carrying spacecraft in time to be operationally useful.

We all agree that our country has painted itself into a corner and does not now, nor will for many years, have a U.S. government craft suitable for carrying cargo or crew to the International Space Station. The reputation of our country and the potential liability associated with carrying United States and international crews to and from the ISS dictates that we do everything possible to ensure that any commercial crew service meets standards equal to those that we would enforce would the craft be government owned and operated.

Respectfully,

Neil Armstrong
Eugene Cernan
James Lovell