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Link here. To my readers some of this will seem familiar. To those who listened to my last appearance on the Space Show, it will also seem familiar. I decided what I had written and said in both places needed a more detailed essay. Key quote:
Every single big space project since the founding of NASA has always been proposed and approved by elected officials. NASA officials might have lobbied for one version or another, but always, always, it was understood and accepted that the project did not exist without first getting an enthusiastic and very public authorization from elected officials.
What was understood without question was that the right to make these fundamental policy decisions belonged only to the lawmakers, elected as they were by the citizenry under the Constitution.
NASA’s new Lunar Gateway project, however, is something altogether different. It was conceived, designed, and proposed by the big aerospace companies Lockheed Martin and Boeing as a justification for the continuing construction of SLS and Orion. It was added as a budget line item by NASA bureaucrats who supported it, and it now exists as a growing major space project comparable to Apollo, the Space Shuttle, ISS, and SLS/Orion.
Yet no president has ever officially and publicly proposed the Lunar Gateway. No Congress ever reviewed or endorsed the program. All these elected officials have done is simply to accept the will of NASA bureaucrats and large aerospace contractors, and rubber-stamp that line item in NASA’s budget.
Thus, unlike all past big space projects, Gateway stands alone as the only one to be proposed and approved not by our elected officials, but by the vendors who will build it and by the unelected NASA bureaucrats who will manage it.
Worse, Gateway’s growing year-by-year funding and development is being controlled not by lawmakers or the president but by those very same bureaucrats.
Essentially, this is a coup by NASA’s bureaucracy and the big space contractors over the power of elected officials.