Transhab Restrospect: NASA's Bubble Burst


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

FYI,

"Space Friction"
Houston Press
http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2000-08-10/feature2.html/page1.html

: 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  http://www.space-space.com
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