The notion that a Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton crony who is an extreme fan of Elon Musk should have any chance of being appointed to any office in the new administration being assembled by President-elect Trump should be laughable. But an examination of what has been said by Lori Garver should make it abundantly clear how ridiculous an idea such an appointment would be.
Garver has proven herself in the recent past to be a major fan and cheerleader for Elon Musk, the billionaire businessman who has created a corporate empire of three companies built almost entirely with about $4.9 billion in taxpayer subsidies.
Garver has so much bought into the bill of goods that is Musk and SpaceX, she think they can complete a mission to Mars. Speaking during a panel discussion at the Council for Foreign Relations, Garver said about those who are skeptical of the SpaceX goal of exploring Mars by 2018, that this goal, “is a pretty bold statement from a guy known for bold statements.” She furthermore praised NASA for being involved, and said it, “is more similar to what you might have with a government-to-government agreement. So it is breaking new ground, and I think it’s a good sign that NASA is even a partner. It shows there are people at NASA who are as excited about this as a lot of us are.”
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SpaceX has had several rocket launches explode, destroying the cargo that was intended to be launched into space, including the $95 million Facebook satellite that went up in smoke on board the Falcon 9 rocket that exploded. The reputation and credibility of SpaceX suffered further when they suggested a conspiracy theory of sabotage by a rival launch company as their explanation for the explosion of Falcon 9.
Garver has implied that critics of SpaceX don’t get it, and has also said, “I thought, fundamentally, you just don’t understand. We’re not in a race in a swimming pool where everyone is racing against one another. We’re in a cycling race where the government is riding point and the others are drafting behind us, and if someone comes alongside us and can pass us because they’ve found a better way, we don’t get out our tire pump and stick it between their spokes.”
At times, Garver says what sound like the right things but upon examination her comments can prove to be shallow, superficial, and void of real substance on the issues in discussion. A someone who is a past adviser to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on space issues, and such a big fan of Elon Musk and SpaceX, Garver brings little if any substance to the table about NASA and space exploration policy.
“NASA was a very symbol of capitalist ideals when we went to the Moon and beat the Russians,” Garver said. “Now what we’re working with is more of a socialist plan for space exploration, which is just anathema to what this country should be doing. Don’t try to compete with the private sector. Incentivize them by driving technologies that will be necessary for us as we explore further.”
NASA was not a symbol for capitalist ideals but a government agency, that did have success in space exploration. But NASA is the same agency in place now that Garver calls “socialist” for it’s current space exploration policies. And yes those would be the policies of one President Obama, who Garver has advised in the past. Did Garver advise Obama to pursue a “socialist plan” for space exploration?
While speaking in the round table discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, Garver also stated, “…we are focused here today on the human spaceflight part of NASA, and NASA, of course, is just the government part of space activity. So there’s a number of other things that are driven, I think, more by the purposes that drive large expenditures in other areas…And to me, being supportive of democracy and capitalism, we have the ability with space, I think, to reinforce both.”
Repeatedly Garver says the private sector should do more in space exploration, and talks of more incentives for this to come about, without offering any substantive ideas on how to make that come about. Simply put, Garver talks a good game but doesn’t offer any solid ideas on how convert the glossy rhetoric into real space exploration policy that can lead to success.
Garver didn’t always work well with others at NASA. A November 2015 online article published by Ars Technica offered the following view of her time as deputy administrator at NASA: “During her tenure as NASA’s deputy administrator, Garver made more than a few enemies in Congress and at NASA. She stepped on the toes of center directors. She got crosswise with the astronaut corps. And she didn’t always play nice with NASA’s traditional aerospace partners, who expected fat contracts from the space agency but also flexible deadlines.”
Maybe Garver has no hope of being appointed to any office in the Trump Administration. We can only hope that is true, that the Trump team is vetting nominees well and will see how clearly Garver should be screened out of consideration for any appointment. But there is concern that among some are in the circle, that some of them might be listening to Garver bloviate about space policy, and perhaps they might believe some of what they’re hearing. Nothing being voiced by Lori Garver on space policy should have any influence on the direction the Trump Administration pursues for NASA in particular or space policy in general. There are other far more credible and wise voices to seek out, and listen to, on space policy.
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