Add Lori Garver to the list of people who are unhappy that former shuttle commander Eileen Collins is slated to speak at the Republican National Convention. Garver, who is the former Deputy Administrator of NASA, tweeted, “Shocked Eileen is supporting this anti-science misogynist. Sorry her legacy is now co-opted by self-interested men.” Garver, whose tenure at the #Space agency was fraught with controversy, allowed these words to go out on social media apparently unaware of the irony.
Mind, Garver, being a partisan Democrat, might be expected to call Donald Trump an “anti-science misogynist.” She did not go as far as Sen Elizabeth Warren, who has been quite tart on twitter about the Republican ticket.
Garver, who advised both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during the 2008 election and was later in charge of President-Elect Obama’s transition team for NASA. She is thought to have had a crucial role in the development of the current president’s space #Policy that canceled President George W. Bush’s Constellation space exploration program and doubled down on Bush’s commercial crew subsidy program.
The policy has turned out to have had, at best, mixed results. Partly this is due to the way it was rolled out, suddenly, without warning, and without consultation.
The commercial crew program will likely bear fruit in a couple of years when the first privately operated, #Government funded spacecraft start delivering crews to the International Space Station, after some delays due to conflicts between the Obama Administration and Congress.
The cancellation of Constellation, on the other hand, has been an unmitigated disaster. The original plan advanced by the Obama Administration had been to place all space exploration beyond low Earth orbit on hold while a number of five-year technology development projects were conducted. Congress, rightly seeing this as a ploy to kill space exploration by studying it to death, revolted.
A somewhat messy compromise arose from the ashes of Constellation that has so far proven to be unsatisfactory. The new program, called the Journey to Mars, involves the building of a heavy-lift launcher called the Space Launch System and a spacecraft called Orion. Eventually, or so it is hoped, a series of missions to cis-lunar space will lead to the first human expedition to Mars sometime in the 2030s.
Explicit in the new policy, as expressed by President Obama’s now infamous Kennedy Space Center Speech on April 15, 2010, was that no NASA astronaut be sent back to the lunar surface – ever. Subsequent studies, at both a think tank called Next-Gen Space and at MIT, have concluded that the decision is folly. Access to lunar water that can be refined into rocket fuel would cut the cost and the complexity of the Journey to Mars significantly. The moon also has a great deal of intrinsic scientific and commercial value.
Since she left NASA, Garver has busied herself by attacking the new program, in particular, its reliance on a heavy lift vehicle. Most space experts, such as former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, suggest that a heavy lift launcher is vital for any Mars mission and would be useful for going back to the moon as well. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, is developing his own heavy lift launcher for his Mars colony project.
The social media rumor mill suggests that by trashing Colonel Collins, Garver is maneuvering to become NASA administrator, presumably under Hillary Clinton should she be elected president. However, Clinton may not be too happy with Garver for jumping ship from her campaign to that of Obama’s in 2008. Also, especially if the Republicans retain the Senate, she is likely unconfirmable. Sen. Ted Cruz’s subcommittee would likely hold the hearings. Cruz is not likely to be happy about Garver’s stance on space policy or her heated rhetoric about Republicans being “anti-science.” However, if someone were actually to try to put Garver in charge of NASA, the confirmation hearings would be quite a show.