Burt Rutan sets the record straight

by | Feb 26, 2010 | Commercial human spaceflight, COTS, exploration, NASA, Personal spaceflight, Technology | 7 comments

Burt Rutan has released the following statement:

To my friends in the Press…

Since the WSJ chose to cherry-pick and miss-quote my comments to Cong

Wolf and since the blogs have taken that to further mischaracterized my

comments, I am forwarding the Wolf memo in its entirety, in the hopes

that some of this gets corrected.  Some additional clarification of my thoughts follow:

My basic concern is that the real value of NASA’s contributions that

America realized in the 60s and early 70s is now being completely

discarded. How can we rationalize a surrender of our preeminence in

human spaceflight?  In my mind, the important NASA accomplishments are

twofold:  1) The technical breakthroughs achieved by basic research (not

by Development programs like Constellation) and 2) The Forefront Manned

Exploration that provided the inspiration for our youth to plan careers

in engineering/science and that established the U.S. as the world leader

in technology.

In short, it is a good idea indeed for the commercial community to

compete to re-supply the ISS and to bring about space access for the

public to enjoy. I applaud the efforts of SpaceX, Virgin and Orbital in

that regard and feel these activities should have been done at least two

decades ago.  However, I do not see the commercial companies taking

Americans to Mars or to the moons of Saturn within my lifetime and I

doubt if they will take the true Research risks (technical and

financial) to fly new concepts that have low confidence of return on

investment.  Even NASA, regarded as our prime Research agency has not

recently shown a willingness to fly true Research concepts.

For years I have stated that a NASA return-to-moon effort must include

true Research content, i.e. testing new concepts needed to enable

forefront Exploration beyond the moon.  The current Ares/Orion does not

do that.  While I have been critical of Constellation for that reason, I

do not think that NASA should ‘give up’ on manned spaceflight, just that

they should be doing it while meeting the 1) or 2) criteria above.

Some have guessed that my recent comments are based on my overall

displeasure with the Obama Administration.  they are not; however it does

seem that the best technical minds in U.S. industry are still striving

to find HOW America can continue to be “exceptional”, while the

Administration does not want America to BE “exceptional”.

Burt Rutan

Rutan has not forwarded the Congressman Frank Wolf “memo” as he calls it or letter as its referred to elsewhere. Hyperbola was sent a copy of it by a third party a few days ago but due to concerns about possible privacy implications this blog is not publishing it for now  

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