Last week, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver met with reporters after giving a keynote address at the NewSpace 2013 Conference in San Jose, Calif. Below is an excerpt of the conversation relating to the space Agency’s Commercial Crew program.
Parabolic Arc will run other excerpts from the discussion on the Asteroid Retrieval Mission and International Space Station in the days ahead.
Q. On a little different subject from the asteroid mission, you talked about commercial crew. In the past, you know you’ve talked for the need for full funding for commercial crew in FY 14. If you end up with something closer to what the House is offering, $500 million, or worse a CR [continuing resolution] and another round of sequestration, what does that do to the program looking forward? Can you protect the 2017 date [for commercial service] any longer, or does it shift out?
Lori Garver: So, I think it’s really clear that to keep competition as long as possible, and to accelerate the time when we are no longer sending money to Russia, but spending those dollars here with U.S. companies, we need the full funding. We need as close to the full funding as we can get. If Congress decides that is not what they want to do, they can send that money to Russia for a longer period of time. We can go down to one competitor earlier, and thereby possibly increasing the cost and risk. We could look at going and doing this in a different way that is, with Space Act Agreements longer. Right now, Congress, again, locks us into FAR [Federal Acquisition Regulation]-based contracts but not giving us the money and still wants the date. You cannot have all that. So, you have to look at every path to get us, we think, to U.S. capability as soon as possible.
Q. Does the $775 [million] the Senate is offering do that for you?
Garver: Obviously, it is as close to, so much closer to $821 [million] request that we really believe we could advance the best if we could get…the Senate mark.
Q. Also, there’s language in both the House and the Senate bills of getting the partners to contribute more in the next round. Does that look feasible? How much more do you think they would contribute to keep this on track?
Garver: The partners have been contributing, and I think, as we get closer, will evaluate outside markets and that that will drive their own ability to do that. I actually think that them seeing the U.S. government’s commitment to it will help. So, it’s an interesting thing to cut the cost and then to say we want you to pay more. I’m not sure that’s going to be the best plan.