Ex-NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver helped create the now-booming private space industry. But she says NASA is still too focused on using its moon programme to provide jobs for US workers
14 September 2022
Today, private firms play a crucial role in humanity’s space activities. To give just one example, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX currently provides the only rocket capable of taking astronauts from US soil to the International Space Station. This would never have been possible without Lori Garver. As deputy administrator of NASA between 2009 and 2013, her time at the agency was revolutionary. After a long history of NASA controlling all its activities itself, Garver set it on a new path. She wanted to create a whole new space industry, building up companies so that they could do some of the agency’s work more efficiently and cheaply.
Up until now, these companies have mainly been operating in Earth orbit. But the US is planning to return people to the moon in 2025 through its Artemis programme, and private companies are going to be a crucial part of that effort. Both SpaceX and Blue Origin, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, have been tasked with building landers that can ferry humans to the moon’s surface, while numerous contractors will design other systems too, such as new spacesuits for astronauts. New Scientist caught up with Garver to see what she makes of this new era of lunar exploration.
Jonathan O’Callaghan: You played an important part in creating a private space industry. What initially motivated you?
Lori Garver: At the time, NASA had a very full plate and the space shuttle programme was expensive. Freeing up budget from human …