Friday, April 09, 2010

Space Access 2010 - Charles Miller, Senior Advisor for Commercial Space, NASA HQ, on An NACA Approach To Low Cost Reliable Access To Space

Charles Miller started off thanking Henry Vanderbilt for organizing this conference.

Charles will share some thoughts on the potential for NASA to help with low cost reliable access to space.

Some of the slides here are similar to what he showed us.

Charles says the NACA approach is to build an industry, not a program. They weren’t trying to pick winners.

Historically NASA has done a poor job of creating low cost access to space. Charles reviewed four attempts by NASA over the last forty years. Engineers point out that we have learned technical lessons. Charles says we haven’t learned other lessons, more important lessons.

In 1898 the Department of War gave Dr. Sam Langley $50,000 to invent the airplane. This was a lot of money. He was the acknowledged expert on flight at the time. Five years later he was $20,000 over budget. When he failed, he was not close to inventing a practical airplane. Embarrassed the Department of War shut down the project.

Then a couple months later the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk. The brothers spent only $1,000. These brothers would never have been picked as experts, yet alone be the ones who succeed.

Charles says the point of this is often “We often don’t know what we don’t know.” He proposes that we take an open innovation approach. Don’t worry about trying to figure out ahead of time who will be the winner.

Charles said the NACA had their greatest impact when their budget was the lowest.

In the early history of aviation there were legal issues on who could build airplanes.

Europe bought lots of planes. The government didn’t buy planes in volume for years. The NACA persuaded various government agencies to buy planes.

Charles talked a bit about some upcoming conferences.

The full agenda for Space Access 2010, with links

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