Transhab Restrospect: NASA's Bubble Burst

From Mark Reiff <markreiff@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date Tue, 15 Aug 2000 00:32:48 -0500


"Space Friction"
Houston Press

: Her first job after she
: earned her masters from the Yale School of Architecture
: in 1990 was working in Tokyo for Kenzo Tange, an
: architect "so famous," she says, "most of my classmates
: thought he was dead." After that, she went to Berlin to
: work with Josef Paul Kleiheus and play a part in
: reshaping the city's landscape after the fall of the wall. She
: never thought of working at NASA. Why would she?
: They hire scientists and engineers and fighter pilots -- not
: architects.

: Lockheed hired her for the
: Bioplex project, but within
: months, NASA had recruited her
: for a "Tiger Team" charged with developing an inflatable space
: habitat. Two years ago, Adams was unemployed; now she was
: part of "the sexiest thing in the space program." 

: NASA staged an end run around the House Science Committee
: and into the uncharted and controversial territory of space
: commercialization; the agency lobbied a sympathetic
: congressperson to tack a legislative rider on an appropriations bill
: at the last minute. Critics of the rider complained that it would
: allow NASA to keep any excess funds in their budget and then, as
: Sensenbrenner put it, "pick and choose which private ventures will
: receive the retained fees."  NASA wanted to keep the $174 million
: already appropriated to build a hard habitation module and use the
: money instead to grease a deal with a private company to build
: Transhab.

: Needless to say, this maneuver pissed off
: members of the Science Committee, and before NASA officials
: knew what hit them, the $174 million designated for the hard hab
: was deleted from the budget.

: Washington was just sending a message to NASA: If
: Transhab is going to be built at all, it will be built with wholly
: private funds.

: Space tourism might seem like the most far-fetched of the
: possibilities, but it's already in the works. Earlier this year, an
: antigovernment American billionaire named Walter
: Anderson formed a corporation with his Sikh sidekick to lease
: Mir from the Russian government for $200 million a year for the
: rest of the station's lifetime.

: Last August NASA held a Habitation Module Commercialization
: Conference at the Johnson Space Center to drum up interest in a
: privately owned space station module, "Comlab," based on
: Transhab's design. Insiders say about five companies submitted
: proposals, including Boeing, the corporation already contracted to
: build the space station's traditional hard habitation module. These
: initial proposals were rejected by NASA because all of them
: assumed significant government backing, something NASA can no
: longer offer. 

: But Fender, the ever-optimistic Transhab project manager, says
: that "a new person, a new entity, came into play, and they
: proposed something that was very appealing to NASA as far as
: commercialization." Fender can't talk about the proposal or even
: the parties involved, but she hopes to see it go public within the
: next three months.

Ah the old October surprise. :)

: Constance Adams is in her kitchen making coffee late one night,
: when it seems to sink in for the first time that her project will most
: likely not be built -- with public or private funds. When the
: evidence is laid out before her, she is, uncharacteristically,
: speechless.

: Exasperated, Adams thinks about taking a week of vacation and
: going to Washington to lobby Congress as a private citizen. Then,
: under her breath, she hopes NASA doesn't completely back off of
: space exploration beyond the International Space Station. She
: doesn't want to look for another job. 

Mark Reiff     e-mail: markreiff@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
web site: Space Space^tm
Pick a forum, any forum.
Yahoo Commercial Space Place forum
Yahoo Space Travel Bureau
Solar Power Satellite Place
Delphi Commercial Space Place
Deja Commercial Space Place, Too
Space Chamber of Commerce Forum
National Defense Space Place Forum
Space Education Place Forum
Space Enthusiast Place Forum
Financing Space Forum
Internet Space Place Forum
Space Media Place Forum
Space Labor Place Forum
Moral Values in Space Place Forum
Space Operations Place Forum
Space Policy Place Forum
Public Space Place Forum
A Risky Space Place Forum
Space Technology Place Forum