From April 13, 2005, to January 20, 2009, Dr. Michael Griffin served as Administrator of NASA, the space agency of the United States. As NASA Administrator, Griffin oversaw such areas as the future of human spaceflight, the fate of the Hubble telescope and NASA's role in understanding climate change. In April 2009, Dr. Griffin was named eminent scholar and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. In this a series of 5 videos, Dr. Griffin talks about how he got started in the space business, his role at UAHuntsville, commercial space initiatives during his tenure at NASA, NASA data purchase from commercial Moon missions, and the best business case for going to the Moon.
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Video 1: Dr. Michael Griffin, Former NASA Administrator, on How He Got Started in the Space Business
In this video, Dr. Michael Griffin, RCSP team member, talks about A Child’s Book of Stars that he has framed and has hanging on the wall outside his office at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Dr. Griffin says that many people ask him how he got started in the space business. He explains that when he was 5 years old he received A Child’s Book of Stars as a gift from his mother. He had just learned to read and he kept reading it over and over again and memorized the book. This led him to continue to read other books about space and astronomy and then he started to become more interested in engineering and science. That is what led him to become an aerospace engineer instead of an astronomer.
His mother kept the book all through his childhood and gave it to him later in his life. In 2005, Dr. Griffin was appointed NASA administrator by President Bush. The United States was in the process of returning to flight after the Columbia accident. In July of 2005, the Space Shuttle Discovery was set to launch. One of his friends called his wife to see if there was something they could fly for him as a memento for their appreciation. His wife suggested A Child’s Book of Stars. The book was wrapped in plastic to protect it and it was flow in space on the Space Shuttle Discovery during the STS-114 mission. After the book returned from space, Dr. Griffin had it framed with a signed picture of the crew and certificate of authenticity which is now displayed outside his UAHuntsville office.
Video 2: Dr. Michael Griffin, Former NASA Administrator, on His Role at UAHuntsville
In this video, Dr. Michael Griffin, RCSP team member, discusses his role at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAHuntsville). Dr. Griffin left NASA in 2009, and while he considered different places to continue his career, he looked at UAHuntsville and saw a lot of potential. He describes UAHuntsville as a highly concentrated engineering and scientific school with 47 percent engineering and science. Also, UAHuntsville was recently named a Carnegie Tier One Research University. Dr. Griffin says he thought he could actually help out at UAHuntsville more than at other larger universities, and that is why he chose to come to Huntsville. He had visited the city many times before on business trips and liked the area and the people. He currently teaches at UAHuntsville and wants to establish a new center for systems and engineering research. He describes his role at UAHuntsville as a combination of teaching, research, and public outreach.
Video 3: Dr. Michael Griffin, Former NASA Administrator , on Commercial Space Initiatives
In this video, Dr. Michael Griffin, RCSP team member, discusses how he made significant contributions to the new commercial space direction for NASA. He says he thoroughly enjoyed doing it and he was very proud to help get it started. Until his tenure as NASA Administrator, the development of space had been all Government all the time. There were some commercial communication satellites and some imaging satellites, but they were the exception. He believed that having only government involvement wasn’t ultimately going to work. He feels that space development should be a mixture of public enterprise and private enterprise. While he was NASA Administrator, he was involved in the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) effort for commercial firms to make progress in commercial space transportation. If companies met certain goals they would get pay-outs from NASA. He believes that non-government firms should put up their own money to go into Space. If private money is spent then private investors should own it. Dr. Griffin says that Space is actually difficult, it is rocket science! He believes the time has come for Government policies to stimulate commercial space.
Video 4: Dr. Michael Griffin, Former NASA Administrator, on NASA Data Purchase from Commercial Moon Missions
In this video Dr. Michael Griffin, RCSP team member, discusses NASA’s recent decision to purchase data for its unmanned commercial missions to the Moon. He says this question gets directly to what commercial space can do with enlightened government policies. Dr. Griffin states that when NASA puts together a spacecraft or a science mission they don’t care about, the hardware and the scientists just care about the data and not the equipment. Now, NASA can purchase mission data instead of the mission itself and the contractor can use different hardware approaches to get the data. If the mission fails, the provider suffers the losses and not the Government. This is the position we are in with the Google Lunar X PRIZE. One recent example of NASA’s purchasing data is the ILDD purchase; now NASA can get more data about the Moon without having to make the investment.
Video 5: Dr. Michael Griffin, Former NASA Administrator, on the Best Business Case for Going to the Moon
In this video, Dr. Michael Griffin, RCSP team member, discusses what he believes is the best business case for going to the Moon. He says it is worth the investment to find out the business case. Dr Griffin states that humankind has less than one man month on the Moon in a few small areas close to the equator. The Moon is a small world of its own, three days’ travel from Earth, and he believes it will play a significant role to mankind. He also believes we do not know yet what the best business case is for the Moon. For now the business case is we should make the investment! He believes we need to leave it as a set of options for our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. Let them develop the business case. Dr. Griffin considers it our job to invest in the Moon and he sees it as an investment for human society. Dynetics and the Rocket City Space Pioneers and UAHuntsville are not going to make the whole investment. RCSP has put forth a very innovative commercial concept. This is a good model that can transfer over. RCSP is going to piggyback on a commercial launch capability for other purposes. That is good business case because we can leverage a ride off somebody else’s immediate need.