NASA insider: Some truth to Gingrich's barb
NASA is "standing in the way" of new opportunities, Newt Gingrich said Monday at a debate among GOP presidential candidates.
June 14th, 2011
08:13 PM ET

NASA insider: Some truth to Gingrich's barb

After Newt Gingrich's harsh comments about NASA during Monday's night's debate between GOP presidential hopefuls, you'd guess the outrage from the nation's legendary space agency would be deafening.

So far today, all we've heard from Houston and Washington are crickets.

For those who missed it, Gingrich accused NASA's bureaucracy of wasting hundreds of billions of dollars that it's spent since the 1969 moon landing. Without such waste, he said, "we would probably today have a permanent station on the moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles."

NASA is "standing in the way" of a "new cycle of opportunities" when it "ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector," said the former House speaker.

The government agency that fulfilled President Kennedy's Cold War challenge to send a man to the moon within a decade chose not to comment. "It is inappropriate for us to comment on election rhetoric," said today's one-line statement from the communications office.

Why so quiet? Some NASA officials suspect Gingrich may be letting us know that the emperor has no clothes.

Some insiders are wondering if NASA is operating with an outdated management paradigm better suited to the 1960s Apollo era rather than the 21st century.

Instead of a bounty of exploration riches, Gingrich said, NASA has produced "failure after failure."

The space shuttle, which will lift off a final time next month, was originally designed to fly 50 missions per year at $10 million per flight. That never happened. The International Space Station was first priced at $8 billion to design build and develop. That price tag eventually totaled more than $100 billion. NASA's list of expensive and less-than-successful programs includes the X-33, the Constellation, the X-38, the Ares I, and the Ares V, which were all canceled before they came to fruition.

The former House speaker didn't mention the shuttle's well-known successes, including countless research missions, fixing the Hubble Telescope and building the International Space Station.

"Most people know that there's a lot of truth to what Newt's been saying," said a NASA executive who asked not to be identified so he might speak more frankly. "But they're doing their best to compose the nation's space agenda in the face of all the constraints of operating within a government bureaucracy."

What Gingrich didn't say last night is that he agreed with NASA's 2011 budget - which was approved by President Obama.

The "Obama administration's budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration deserves strong approval from Republicans," Gingrich wrote in an editorial with former Rep. Robert Walker.

NASA has been fostering programs during the past few years aimed at using privately developed rockets and orbiting vehicles for U.S. space missions.

Space Exploration Technologies, aka Space X, has been contracted to use its Dragon orbiter - after it's fully developed - to resupply the space station. The stakes for NASA to reconfigure are high, said the NASA executive.

"NASA will either undergo a paradigm shift now to figure out how to work with the private sector - or it will probably collapse."

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Filed under: NASA • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Space
soundoff (343 Responses)
  1. Sitnalta

    It's also worth noting that even despite the horrible, inefficiency, the bureaucracy, NASA still remains one of the best taxpayer investments of all time. They have literally changed the world for the better. That's not something we can say about the defense department.

    June 15, 2011 at 1:35 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • MidMoMedic

      Except your freedom to make your comment. The DoD may not be perfect, but it hosts the home of the best military in the world. So...either say just say "Thank you" or pick a weapon give us a hand.

      June 15, 2011 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Sitnalta

      I'll say "thank you" when they stop lying to US citizens, murdering and torturing innocent people, and sending our young soldiers to die pointlessly in other countries just to serve America's economic interests. You honestly think invading Iraq or Libya protects our freedom? I'll tell you what, bub, we have a lot more to fear from the United States armed forces than some old, despotic idiots hiding in Pakistan.

      June 15, 2011 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
    • AFhero

      The DoD isn't perfect, neither is the government in general. No matter who is the President or who has the majority in Congress, there will still be lying, misconduct, photos of congressional genitalia on Twitter, etc. However, you base your opinion of the Armed Forces on the actions of a few select people who did stupid things while there are hundreds of thousands of troops out there doing good work. You have the right to your opinion, just remember who's out there protecting that right, because no matter if you see it or not, they protect you and your rights every day.

      June 15, 2011 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Tim E

      @AFHero: Our rights are protected by the collective and often competing actions of Congress, the Executive Branch, the Judiciary, the military, the police, the Press, and public protest. The military has no monopoly on protecting the rights of Americans, and just as any other flawed arm of government, it in some ways threatens those rights. That the military is a paragon of rights protection is a myth. Just like humanity in general, it has the capacity for both good and evil, and it needs us to protect it from itself as much we need it to protect us from others.

      June 15, 2011 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
    • ejs

      hell, the biggest threat to American freedom is our government. not some current foreign power. Except for Hitler, nobodys a real threat. Todays threats are all economic threats to the business community, airlines, banks.... DOD is now just a bunch of mercenaries protecting economic interests. look how TSA has gotten started and taken off. They defend the ever -increasing budget with fear, paranoia... Homeland securitys big mission is busting up internet sites that broadcast sports games, and trolling for conterfeit NFL,NBA appareal...country full of rednecks think thats good security... what a waste of taxes...is TSA trying to really fix the isee, HELL no, budget needs to get bigger for all the sake of bearacracy... congress gives out the money to their friends, it aint going down....just growing...without getting any better...

      June 15, 2011 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
    • jayman419

      It's also worth mentioning that while NASA has a lot of projects that never got off the ground, they also have a lot of interference in their decision-making process. It's hard to accomplish anything when your goals and funding change every couple of years.

      We wouldn't have been stuck with the shuttle for 30 years of Congress hadn't slashed their budget and cancelled Apollo construction, before Nixon decided to switch to the new ship. Changes made during the design phase , often flip-flopping to support one company with a strong lobby then another, meant that the final product wasn't able to fulfill many mission critical objectives, limiting it's usefulness for subcontractor work. Meanwhile, Russia stuck with the Proton, and they can achieve orbit for a fraction of what we pay.

      June 15, 2011 at 5:17 am | Report abuse |
    • craig

      What isn't reported are the secret military missions launching and maintaining communications orbitors enabling our defenses to conduct covert missions and intelligence gathering. That is the NASA my engineering efforts have supported.

      June 15, 2011 at 5:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. OSINT

    NASA = BLACKHOLE "EGO's" and just another bunch of Over Educated Spoilers that have No Respect for other peoples Money !

    Get out of the way and leave it to the Pro's – The Private Sector.

    We have Tang, thanks for N0-thing.

    Nice Strike Team though. or is that HRT or SWAT or SPEOP's or Security or Anti-Terrorism Team or just so many to choose from.

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ well spent.

    June 15, 2011 at 1:40 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • lulz

      I hate fascists like you.

      June 15, 2011 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Flipper

      Yep, all thousands of NASA employees including all the former armed service members, they ALL have huge egos.

      June 15, 2011 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Sid

      Long Live NASA...!

      June 15, 2011 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill M.

      I would love to see the private sector succeed in space, especially in manufacturing products which can only be made in microgravity or doing space-based solar power. Just wake me up when it happens...

      June 15, 2011 at 4:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill M.

      Libertarian tyrant...

      June 15, 2011 at 4:09 am | Report abuse |
    • rusty,tucson

      Look out for that Terrorist behind you, he came all the way from the Middleast just for YOU!!!!
      Oh, I forgot we now connect the dots. Maybe Sulieman from the 3rd century BC can be reincarnated!!!

      June 15, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. rockman

    R.E. Sitnalta
    If you think???? nasa(notice the lwr case) Has made our life better than why can we do what OSINT stated.Abuse and the fleecing of AMERICA has caused us.My current computer in itself probably has enough ability to control a rover on mars while running diagnostics on an orbital SAT of the moon w/ot having to do a defrag???I only payed$749 for my nasa hardware.....

    June 15, 2011 at 1:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Annette

    osint. The privae sector would have the same overeducate people, you don't run a space agancy on a bunch of high school dropouts.
    If you think tang is all we got from space you are so incredibly ignorant that it is hard to know where to start. Evrything from massively improved treatment for brain cancer, yes I know handed out by over educated brain surgeons, to improved crop management on farms to lasars to satellites to lasar heart surgery to LED lights.

    Te private sector has had every opportunity to do any space exploration they want. Basically it is expensive and they don't want to do it. Those that do want to do it are doing it.

    osint, if you had bothered to finish high school you would understand that the private sector will not do everything, cannot do everything and is often much more inefficient at doing a job than government.

    June 15, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. ME

    Folks, Please tell me why we need to go in to space really? Billions of dollars wasted and half the stuff people see in space is classified and we cant know nothing about. So why should we waste tax dollars on going to outer space.

    God made us for this planet and this planet alone.

    June 15, 2011 at 2:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sid

      Live your life in fairy tales. People like you will come and go, glad to see the majority is not ignorant like you, NASA is untouchable.

      June 15, 2011 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
    • ejs

      yea, God did not give us wings for a purpose... oh yea, what does the bile say about space exploration... hey, how about a space bible...

      June 15, 2011 at 4:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Peter E

      God also didn't intend for Europeans to waste precious resources of the monarchy (i.e. what the monarchy collected in taxes from their people) on exploring the seas and new lands. God intended for Europeans to just stay put and never discover America.

      June 15, 2011 at 5:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. adam

    Why go into space? Glad you asked! You could look at the simple advantages that I won't bother to list. You could also use a bit of reasoning and see the bigger picture. Humans expand. We grow beyond the capacity of our environment and move out. Its behind the great explorations of yesterday (the discovery of this great nation was due to those explorations) and the present day exploration of mars. Look back through history and you will see the future. Ask why and you will find an answer. Exploring is part of being human. Its as much a part of our survival as beating each others heads in. Good question and continue to ask them, but without the ego.

    June 15, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sid

      You are into petty things.

      June 15, 2011 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. Sid

    The difference is we still rule and you are here commenting forever. We'll get all the money. Future belong to us, try your best to deter us. NASA is untouchable.

    June 15, 2011 at 3:27 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Sid

    NASA should squeeze hundreds of more billions, country is dumb anyway. Let them whine and they should survive on little.

    June 15, 2011 at 3:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. SalSal Gamboni

    Must not be welfare check cashing time. The trailer trash are out in droves, commenting on CNN again.

    Over-educated? There is no such thing!

    June 15, 2011 at 4:24 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Cesar The Chorizo Champ Of Chihuahua

    The only way to fix everything is to pull out of all wars and for NASA to hire everyone in the entire country. Everything we do should be to help the space program and to promote real science, progress and knowledge of the universe we live in and are apart of. Nothing is more important. Not even chooglin' chorizo's.

    June 15, 2011 at 4:29 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Dale

    The day I lost faith in NASA was the day they decided to take a VW sized hunk of steel, stick it on a rocket that costs millions to lift off, and toss it at the moon just to see what it would do.

    June 15, 2011 at 4:40 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • ejs

      oh, you mean the test to see how much water was actually in the surface of the moon. yea, that was a real failure...Fool, they found out plenty from that very succesful experiment...

      June 15, 2011 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Peter E

      That mission was NOT just designed to be tossed onto the Moon. It collected a tremendous amount of data beforehand as well. In fact it was a cost-saving measure to use an otherwise expiring mission to ALSO be used for one final experiment by seacrhing for frozen water in the Moon's polar regions. You should be GLAD they saved costs that way.

      Do I really need to teach you how to look up things on Wikipedia before you post ridiculous assertions?

      June 15, 2011 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. Just Pete

    I love NASA! & you should too.
    NASA needs It's own holiday recognition.

    June 15, 2011 at 5:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Peter E

    To say that NASA produced failure after failure is just a plain lie. The Shuttle program did succeed in accomplishing a tremendous amount of human space exploration. True, the price tag became higher than originally planned, but it did accomplish a lot. The fact that administration after administration kept passing the buck and drive NASA into a corner without a suitable replacement for the Shuttle is hardly just a fault of these last few years. Those budgets are under Congressional supervision, so it's not as if Congress can claim innocence.
    Also, NASA has claimed success after success in non-human space exploration. In fact, NASA did a lot more with a lot less on that front out of the necessity that the budget was in fact wasted on the human aspect of space exploration. With reasonable price tags NASA succeeded in exploring Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Mercury, the Moon, several asteroids and comets, not to mentione dozens of Earth-orbiting missions. All of these were successful and delivered a ton of information without the need for humans.
    A lot of the cost of NASA has to do with it outsourcing a lot of its functions (like the actual building of rockets) to private corporations (Lockheed, Boeing, etc.) so completely outsourcing those jobs is not going to save costs. What would have saved costs is closer Congressional oversight to begin with and maybe less insistence on costly human missions. Oh but Gingrich is too much of a chicken to admit 'yeah, we at Congress failed to do our jobs, and the waste comes from putting humans in space.'

    June 15, 2011 at 5:44 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Limbaugh is a liberal

    NASA operates on $20 billion a year, less than what we have spent on bailing out the car industry and insignificantly less than what we have spent bailing out banks. (and those bailouts were enthusiastically supported by republicans as well) In turn the banks produced failure after failure for the past entire decade. (recall AIG since 2004) Why not call THAT a waste Mr. Gingrich? This is just a smokescreen to take away attention from republican failure after failure for the past three decades, and especially this last decade.

    June 15, 2011 at 5:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. princess leia

    so how many people would mean that the earth was population efficient?theres what 8 billion today,how many would need to go to other planet(s)?i think we need to find other planets to go live on soon as i fear another genocide is just around the corner if we dont.population control is already in play today with chemical warfare,civilians being targeted in thousands during todays wars etc.but isnt the problem also that some people want such high standard of living.some people are happy with just a basic standard of living but i think some people,the elite,would gladly reduce the population to numbers that can continue on with slave labour while they luxuriate.thats the only reason the 'civilians' are allowed to survive-for labour and service to the 'elite'.
    so nasa finding other palnets to live to solve population problems.we need to fix the world system first.otherwise were just gonna do the same on other planets.people wouldnt be happy continuing to slave and serve here on earth at the same rate if the poulation and resource problem was sorted.but they put up with it today esp in '3rd worlds' mostly cause if they dont they die and thier ignorant to thier basic human rights,and the west civilians just turn a blind eye and buy more stuff,the elite get richer,the earth gets more drained.
    sorry to go off topic there but i just think that nasa is great and all.but as of now humanity is the greatest living thing we know of in the universe.we seem to be the means in which the universe is aware of itself.and we need to sort out the totally unjust world system first,then we can go take ourselves to other planets with the same systems in place so we dont make mistakes again.we cant just be like viruses eating up planets then moving onto the next and next.
    sort out the system.then all the money put into wars,religion,the royal familys around the world(spongers),healthcare(people would be healthier in a more just system,or could afford private),government expenses,justice system(people commit less crime if they have a more comfortable life)etc.all this money could go where it belongs-nasa,science,global education,inventing technology in reaching at least a type one civlisation etc.
    and its a fact that if people have a better life then they naturally populate less.so the population would naturally start to decrease,less resources required,earth harmonises.job done.
    it just seems severely messed up when billions are being spent to explore space etc,when people are slaving away for pennies,or starving to death,or dying cause the healthcare system is severly budgeted etc.but hey i dont know why it suprises me.look at our history.the elite have been ruling the world like this as far back as the egytians and beyond.and its logical to think that much space knowledge is hidden to the masses anyway.but all in all nasa and science bring the only real answers to the questions of existence.may the force be with you.

    June 15, 2011 at 5:55 am | Report abuse | Reply
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