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Some insiders are wondering if NASA is operating with an outdated management paradigm better suited to the 1960s Apollo era rather than the 21st century.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. Any loss of human space exploration :-{

    Any loss of human space exploration whether it is close to the planet or in the next star system is a loss for humanity. And what we really need is a propulsion center that is not a chemically fueled rocket. I see where at the University of Florida. They overcame gravity with a strong magnetic field. They were floating flowers and frogs in the field.

    All of you that want to save the planet; well your best bet is getting humanity in space and off the planet.

    As for there being nothing left to explore close by as somebody commented. I still do not see Helium 3 being transported here from the Moon; a plentiful energy source that could easily supply us for the next two centuries; and no; oil would not become obsolete.

    June 14, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dope Smoking Hippie

      They have ion propulsion engines already.. Yes we need Helium 3 if we are going to have fusion power.. As far as chemically filled rockets go... Im a fan..

      June 15, 2011 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • SB

      The magnetic effect you allude to is not conducive to propulsion. They were suspending water which in turn was suspending the object (or lifeforms) in question. However if we could get over our phobia of using nuclear rockets, then we would have an alternative to chemical rockets to take us to orbit. And they are extraordinarily efficient.

      Dope, ion propulsion only works in a vacuum. Doesn't work in an atmosphere. Even if they could the propulsion is too weak to take us to orbit.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike B

      I am a strong supporter of space flight, though at the moment we can do much more with robotic missions than with manned ones. I think we should be sending missions to the Moon on at least a yearly basis, and I would support a manned mission there, once the prep work had been done with robots. And while helium-3 is interesting stuff, there is no need to go to the Moon for it. Every nuclear power plant produces tritium, H-3, which becomes a problem. It is relatively simple (especially compared to going to the Moon) to seperate it out at tritiated water (water where one or both hydrogen atoms are H-3), and store it, perhaps frozen, while the H-3 decays into He-3.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
    • SB

      Well the point on He-3 is moot until we can sustain a fusion reaction, extract the energy surplus, and make viable the technology. So far we haven't even managed to demonstrate step #1. As far as terrestrial power is concerned solar will preempt fusion anyway. Fusion will likely only be important for interplanetary and deep space travel in which case a lunar base makes more sense with its local source of He-3.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  2. Any loss of human space exploration :-{

    Also remember, the more people in the world; the more problems in the world. When we are not living on top of each other and resources are not stretched thin. People are a lot nicer. And do not forget the resource wars have started.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. Greg Clapton

    NASA is a bloated beauracracy with no mission and no future.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
    • SB

      Bull crap.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Corey

      If you bothered to spend even 5 minutes doing research on NASA with Google you could see how utterly ignorant that statement is.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Roland

      Ask Gulf Wat 2 how much cheaper it was with contractors than Gulf War 1. Even with inflation it was way cheaper. Using the Private Sector to do government functions just puts a middle man because their still taking the governments money. Stop being stupid.

      June 15, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Roland

      Heres a good example. Is it cheaper on consumers to buy a car directly from the manufacturer as opposed to going through a dealer. Then why would the TAX Payer absorb dealer cost.

      June 15, 2011 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. Greg Clapton

    NASA is a bloated beauracracy with no mission and a HUGE waste of funding. It's time has come and gone. Let the private sector build the space future and not big government. NASA needs to be retired NOW!

    June 15, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • CTEX

      Too many PhD's at NASA ...just like PhD narcissist Newt.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • SB

      Double bull crap!

      June 15, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      The private sector by a very wide margin is supportive of NASA funding. They need NASA as their "anchor tenant". Boeing, SpaceX, etc. will not build their manned spacecraft unless NASA signs on to buy rides or buy their spacecraft outright. Bigelow won't build its space hotels unless there is a low-cost manned spacecraft from Boeing, SpaceX or someone else, which won't happen unless NASA is the anchor tenant... etc. We need NASA and the Space Station to be the "airmail" of the space age. Government-funded airmail provided a steady revenue stream, allowing the creation of larger airplanes and airlines. Look at the size of that industry today.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Capercorn

      You really have no clue as to how the aerospace industry works, let alone the history of NASA, do you? The Almighty Private Sector cannot improve NASA, seeing as NASA from the beginning was a massive collaboration project between the Federal Government and the US Aerospace Industry. For example, the closeout crew for all NASA flights from Freedom 7, to ASTP was NOT US Government; it was McDonnell Douglas.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. CTEX

    If we really want to go to Mars it ain't going to happen in the "free enterprise" world.
    There is a negative rate of return on such investments. If Gingrich were a real businessman instead
    of a clueless academic chump he'd know that to be true. Don't be fooled by this PhD twit!

    June 15, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Dope Smoking Hippie

      Totally! It's like asking your bud hookup to give away a quarter pound so everyone at the party can have a great time.. Newt would NEVER hook us up like that.. He's the man.. man.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Capercorn

      But... I thought most of the senior Engineers at NASA and in the US Aerospace Industry were PhDs...

      June 15, 2011 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Boater

      No, he has the same mentality as Rick $cott of Florida... Run it like a business. GOVERNMENT WAS NEVER MEANT TO NOR CAN IT BE RUN LIKE A BUSINESS. Government MUST run all of the "unprofitable" ventures that are necessary but private business will not do because it will make no profit.... Government is NOT meant to be profitable–their "profits" are solely the taxes they collect. It is meant to be completely and totally NON-PROFIT. There is a deficit, but that would not be be if the politicians were not trying to make a PROFIT off of the government.

      America, it is time to throw the entire government out on it's ear. I foresee a new Revolutionary War in our lifetimes–sadly, it is the only way to eliminate the evils that are destroying OUR country: the politicians (especially Congress). They ALL need to go–I don't care which party you are referring to.

      Yeah–keep thinking like Rick $cott.... "Let's Get To Work" (laying off the workers and funding the politicians and their friends, that is)

      June 15, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  6. NoodleHat

    In space, no one can hear you fart.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
    • CTEX

      That's only true if you have turned off you intercom.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      Maybe, but you'll float a little faster.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Jugger

      Now THAT was Julie.

      June 15, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. SB

    Yeah great. Only there is no market for private space exploration. It doesn't exist. And the reason it doesn't exist isn't because NASA is standing in the way. It's because there's no money in it. Space exploration is something that WE as a nation have to decide to do. You want to hear crickets? De-fund NASA and wait for the private sector to pick up the slack, then you'll hear crickets. De-fund NASA and Space X disappears. Heck you may not even here the crickets, it'll just be silence. The private sector for space exploration only exists because we fund it through NASA. It otherwise has no reason to exist. PROVE ME WRONG!

    June 15, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • CTEX

      I think I just said something to that effect. 🙂

      June 15, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • SB

      I want to go to Mars and I want to fund it. I would tell Newt, "LET US FUND IT! This is what we want to do." And he would turn around and say something about the private sector that reverberates in the minds of fiscal conservatives but that is utterly ignorant of what NASA does and why they do it and the fact that there are no monetary rewards.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  8. JohnJ

    Newt was right on but he should have gone further: NASA for decades has been nothing but a cushy place to collect a nice salary and develop a plush retirement.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • SB

      Wow that is so ignorant I don't even know what to say.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Billy Bong

      Dumb.
      NASA has been one of the best investments ever made.
      Disprove that,

      June 15, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. NibiruTruth

    NASA – (Never A Straight Answer) is only for public consumption. There is a secret space program that has been underway for decades. Ask folks like Bob Lazar, John Lear, Bob Dean, Richard Hoagland, and James McCanney.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
    • SB

      Bob Lazar, proven liar. John Lear, conspiracy theorist. Bob Dean, conspiracy theorist. Richard Hoagland, con artist. James McCanney, psychopath.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Capercorn

      Where exactly has the secret space program been hiding it's launch facilities? Kind of hard to hide those things... They tend to leave lots of signs of their existence...

      June 15, 2011 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
    • SalSal Gamboni

      Same place the Men In Black hide their hats.

      June 15, 2011 at 4:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bruce H

    OK. let me get this straight...the federal government should not provide health care for its citizens, a retirement program, money for education, or environmental regulations, but it should spend hundreds of billions of tax dollars for space exploration. Oh yeah, that's right. That's what our founding fathers envisioned.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
    • John N Florida

      We don't know WHAT Congress spends money on. ABC did a story on the Congressional Gyms tonight. They weren't allowed in and the budget for the Gyms is -now get this- Classified as National Security.
      BTW, each Congressman has to pay $20.00 / month to join – family plan.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Capercorn

      No, most of us pro-space flight people also like social welfare. We kind of need healthy and smart people in order to make space exploration work.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. John N Florida

    One of the greatest benefits of the space programs is the thing you're using to gripe about it. Newer, better, smaller, lighter. Without the space race there would never have been the impetus towards these computers. Room size computers would have been fine for 30 years.
    The imagination of Star Trek combined with the pledge of Kennedy got us where we are.
    Congress has manged to screw the whole space exploration thing for 30 years. Because of Congress, 2 crews were lost that need not have died. The original shuttle design had a crew escape pod built in. It was dropped when Congress cut the funding. Newt knows that because he was a part of the Republican charge to cut the funding. After all, Space was a Democrat's success. Couldn't have that in people's minds.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Capercorn

      Well, also bear in mind that with Apollo, the US was trying to compare [metaphorically and literally] ICBM sizes. After we proved that we had the mightier, uh... ICBM, Congress was done. We had sufficient waved our missile in the USSR's face. No more need for that space crap, as it was decided that MOAR NUCLEAR WEAPONS were needed.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  12. drogo, the stallion that mounts the world

    Why does anyone listen to this narcissistic gas bag? What his voting record on NASA while a member of the House? Why won't Newt the newt just go away?

    June 15, 2011 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. Joe Moore

    I dont like Newt, but he is a lot better than the Marxist / Leninist ( Obama ) thats in the White House now.

    June 15, 2011 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. Sitnalta

    NASA, like any other industrial government agency, is a huge barrel of pork for congress. A congressman isn't going to fund a new rocket if the parts for the old one are being built in his district. So Newt if half-right, but it's not Nasa's fault they are the way they are. They are the result of decades of budget cuts and brainless politics interfering with science. Creating a morbidly obese monstrosity bowing to the ignorant whims of those who control the purse strings.

    June 15, 2011 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mmmmm

    Oh yeah! What ever became of the starwars laser defense system?

    June 15, 2011 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
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