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Some insiders are wondering if NASA is operating with an outdated management paradigm better suited to the 1960s Apollo era rather than the 21st century.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

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

    Did NASA's spending waist and so on really grow out of proportion to the rest of the government? I don't get that impression at all.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • GrammarNazi


      And no, it actually shrank as a % of overall federal spending.

      June 15, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. Michael

    NASA has spent an estimated grand total of $452.3 billion since it was created on Jan. 31, 1958. Most of which was used to give people jobs. Compare all of NASA's expenses and accomplishments to how much we've spent on blowing up the desert from 9/11 to March 18, 2011...$806 billion for Iraq; $444 billion for Afghanistan; $29 billion for enhanced security; $6 billion unallocated. Haha! Newt! Haha!!!

    June 15, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. phatemu

    If only the U.S. could wage war on the moon.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Darwin SpaghettiMonster

      Watch the brilliant HBO's 'Mr. Show' from the 90's for the hilarious spoof on jingoistic furor about when 'The US will blow up the Moon'

      June 15, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. bachmanntwit

    Michelle Bachmann..." I'm hot for Jesus."

    June 15, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • LunarNightMare

      You are a jag... Get a life...

      June 15, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  5. Thegooddoc

    What the article fails to mention is that SpaceX is still years away from getting an unmanned supply vehicle near the ISS. They have completed only one orbital flight so far, and must do at least 2 more before they are allowed to conduct tests near the ISS. Manned resupply missions? Probably 4 years off at least. What to do in the mean time?

    June 15, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Theggodoc... False. SpaceX's first unmanned cargo flight to the Space Station is expected in October-November of this year. NASA recently accepted SpaceX's proposal to consolidate the second Dragon test flight (whcih was to be this summer) and third Dragon test flight (this fall). If the test phase in orbit goes well, Dragon 2 will proceed to the Space Station.

      June 15, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. rusty,tucson

    Go back to the hole you came out of Newt!!! Maybe you can find a New Wife in it to marry!!! Hypocrite that you are!!!

    June 15, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. The Dude

    Kill Nasa, Let the Corporations own space...why not? They own everything else.

    The more power a government gives up the more fascism gains a foothold on the people.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. Don_J

    ...funny, that's what the President has been saying too, but he's been lambasted for it.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. saywhat

    This man Gingrich should be booted out of public life , period.
    In fact the likes of him are the part of the problem not solution.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  10. Paul

    What? Is he high? Mars, Jupiter, and Venus missions, space telescopes, ISS? Failures? The failure is the constant use of NASA as a political football to bolster public opinion by changing its mission and priorities. Go back to the moon? No go to Mars? Create, man, and maintain the ISS? Remember what NASA does IS rocket science, and as R&D programs, some will fail. The key is to learn and move the ball toward the ultimate national goals, whatever they are this week.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. bobcat2u

    The Newt man needs to start washing his own dirty laundry before he starts pointing fingers at everything else.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tony Atlas

    Don't worry, folks. This POS won't be elected to ANY public office.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. Thomas, Baton Rouge, LA

    He had some valid points. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  14. IrishJohn

    Do you really think the business sector will take this on? The business sector does not think more than one year out in future (looking at only their stock prices). If the space program was left to the business sector back in JFK time, there would be no space program.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. weasley

    The Republicans should just keep their collective mouths shut concerning issues involving science. Capitalism is simply the wrong model when it comes to fueling discover and exploration, and capitalism is the only word in the Republican vocabulary. Discovery is fueled by curiosity–the need to know what lies beyond–not what will line my wallet.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • d

      wealsly: You dont get it. What Newt said was that with real management, there would be a better program, better innovation and more success rather than mired in red tape....

      June 15, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • electromagneticark

      Agreed, well said.

      June 15, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      So utterly backward...

      June 15, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • PhxLuke

      @weasley: I am a bit confused. If Republicans are about capitalism what are Democrats about? Are you suggesting that Democrats do not support capitalism? Secondly, how are capitalism and science contrary to one another? Are you suggesting there is a economic system that is better suited to scientific advancement, and if so can you explain what you believe this to be?

      June 15, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • redisgreat

      Capitalism is the best way to fund research that is out on the edge. Mainstream research needs support from both private and public sectors. Space is NOT something that needs a lot of our attention at this time. Space is not going anywhere and neither are we. Just because you think that "WE" need to explore space now does not mean that it is something that is necessary at this time. Humans will be around for a long time, why rush this. Get it right not get it now should be what we are striving for. Patience.

      June 15, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      The private sector, mainly thanks to military & defense contracts, has produced more scientific advances than any public government agency in the world. Capitalism advances science, whether you want to believe it or not.

      June 15, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • vbscript2

      This coming from the party that likes to cancel the programs which actually advance the sciences (spaceflight, DoD research, nuclear research, etc.) Science is about the only thing Obama HAS cut since he took office. In case you haven't noticed, Republicans are usually the ones supporting such programs. But, then again, you're a Democrat, so you probably actually haven't noticed.

      June 15, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      I think a more accurate statement would be that capitalism isn't a very good model for exploring scientific advances that have no immediate profit potential but may be useful or interesting. It does a decent job of exploring scientific advances that do have profit potential.

      June 15, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Knucklehead

      This fixation on one economic system or another will doom us. There is no "right" economic system. It's time to be pragmatic, not dogmatic. Total, complete, unbridled Capitalism will not bring prosperity any more than unbridled Socialism will. Both systems downplay certain parts of human nature and are overly optimistic about others. What is needed is a healthy mix with an honest look at what benefits most Americans, at what brings the greater good. When things aren't working, that's when enlightened government must step in. And a government can only be as enlightened as its citizens.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Miami

      @J Military and defense spending is publicly funded research!

      June 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stanford

      Sure NASA has wasted some money, maybe has a bad management structure and has continued the obsolete shuttle missions as a PR campaign since Regan. But, all the republicans and the corporate media ignore to REAL problems – the Bush tax cuts for billionaires and the two phony wars he started. Every other spending program is small potatoes compared to these deficit monsters!

      June 15, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave McGuire

      @redisgreat: You need to think about what you're saying. If all fields of scientific endeavor were treated this medical technologies, new forms of you'd sing a different tune now. We NEED space exploration, NOW, whether you have the capacity to understand it or not.

      June 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • JasonB

      Look, I'm not Republican and I'm not a fan of Newt, but on this point, he is absolutely right. While there are many ways we could balance our budget that the Republican's are not exploring (i.e. cutting defense in half) we shouldn't allow government agencies to lowball costs estimates for the sake of congressional approval. It's a joke that each shuttle mission was supposed to cost only $10 million or that we would be able to fly 50 missions per year. NASA knew better. One Shuttle mission costs $450 million and we've only been able to fly about 5 missions per year. That's way off! However, NASA has done it's job. For the first time ever, we're at a place where private contractors are actually ready to fly into space.

      June 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11