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Are They Making the Trump/Pence Space Challenge a Reality?

Monday through Friday I deal with different subjects in this blog. I also post my blog to my Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld. Monday’s I try to focus on issues. This week I am taking a look at Are they making the Trump/Pence Space Challenge a Reality?

The following is a posting of a Newt Gingrich article.

On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced what may prove to be the boldest space challenge since President John F. Kennedy said America would go to the Moon in 1961.

In implementing President Donald Trump’s historic vision for America to go beyond the Moon and Mars, Vice President Pence sent a clear message that Americans were returning to the Moon by 2024 – and we are going there to stay.

The boldness of the Trump-Pence plan can be seen in the fact that this new target is four years sooner than NASA’s most recent estimate. It was a strong response against, NASA’s long history of budget overruns and project delays. Vice President Pence made it clear that “what we need now is urgency,” and that the competition for American leadership in space is “not just competition against our adversaries; we’re also racing against our worst enemy: complacency.”

The Vice President’s challenge to NASA was remarkably bold and direct. In his words, “failure to achieve our goal to return an American astronaut to the Moon in the next five years is not an option.”

His words signaled a profound move away from the traditional space bureaucracy:

“We’re not committed to any one contractor. If our current contractors can’t meet this objective, then we’ll find ones that will. If American industry can provide critical commercial services without government development, then we’ll buy them. And if commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the Moon in the next five years, then commercial rockets it will be.”

In some ways, Vice President Pence’s challenge is even greater than what was facing President Kennedy. It’s true: Kennedy was inventing a new organization and radically expanding the Washington bureaucracy. But that meant he was building something young, fresh, excited, and innovative.

Trump and Pence are trying to reinvigorate, reorient, and redirect an existing, deeply entrenched bureaucracy with a long history of great achievements – that is deeply committed to doing things how they’ve always been done.

Furthermore, President Kennedy was able to use the threat of the Soviet Union to get a massive increase in space funding. At its peak in 1966, NASA was spending 4.4 percent of the federal budget. At that percentage in President Trump’s 2020 budget, NASA would have a budget of $208.8 billion instead of $21 billion. If NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine had almost ten times more money in his budget than he does now, he could do amazing things — but he doesn’t.

Vice President Pence recognizes that a new approach must compensate for the absence of new money. He said on Tuesday, “we will call on NASA not just to adopt new policies but to embrace a new mindset. That begins with setting bold goals and staying on schedule … NASA must transform itself into a leaner, more accountable, and more agile organization. If NASA is not currently capable of landing American astronauts on the Moon in five years, we need to change the organization, not the mission.”

The Trump-Pence-Bridenstine team has two great advantages over the Kennedy era efforts in space.

First, we have a half century of developing new, better, more reliable, and more flexible technology. The reusable rockets of SpaceX and Blue Origin are miraculous improvements on the rockets of the 1960s. Radically smaller microelectronics, breakthroughs in materials technology, the development of 3D printing, and the emergence of artificial intelligence all combine to give us a chance to do more in space – and do it better, faster, and cheaper. However, this is only true if the bureaucracies can be overcome.

Second, there are now competitive companies that can undertake dramatic challenges previously unimagined for the private sector even ten years ago.

Since the bold, exciting challenge of Vice President Pence’s speech, I have talked with key people in the private sector space industry. They are prepared to enter a competition to put astronauts on the Moon — and to stay there. Moreover, they say they can do so ahead of schedule and under budget.

The Trump Administration should propose an open competition. It should not be about planning, engineering, paper pushing, or having meetings. It should be about flying.

Boeing should be challenged to fully take over the Space Launch System project — which it has been paid billions to manage in a traditional cost-plus process. Boeing should be liberated from NASA’s traditional pattern of management, over-planning, and underperforming. If Boeing could liberate its designers and engineers to be mission-oriented rather than process-dominated, the SLS could leap forward, and its price would drop.

At the same time, companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin should be invited into the competition. The central goal would be getting Americans back to the Moon and keeping them there. Companies that meet the goals ahead of schedule should get a bonus. The first company to meet the project goals should get an even bigger bonus.

Furthermore, companies that come in under budget should be allowed to keep 20 percent of the savings. And there should be an opportunity for fully funded new entrants to come and compete.

Importantly, participants should be paid only for achievement – not for planning or process. One suggestion I have heard from industry was for companies to be paid a price per kilo of delivery on the surface of the Moon.

There would have to be a lot of details worked out, but the excitement of a genuine American space race – with each company going all out – would inspire a new generation of Americans to go into space.

At the same time, each company would acquire new capabilities that would be a resource for our military, a building block for getting to Mars and beyond, and an enhancement for low Earth orbit tourism and manufacturing.

This would be a bold implementation strategy worthy of the bold Trump-Pence vision.

Your Friend,

In the above article I emphasized words and phrases I thought significant.

Note: This was such a well written article I felt that it should be seen by others. For transparency I had nothing to do with the writing of this article. Personally, I found this exciting news; something that should have happened a long time ago. But we needed a President with vision and the willingness to proceed. We’ve got him and he’s doing it!


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R Frederick Riddle is the Editor of TR Writing Services providing help to struggling and/or new authors to write and publish their books. In addition he is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical and Speculative Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

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