Jeffrey LewisMore Bang for your NASA Buck

NASA has chartered the Exploration Systems Advisory Committee (ESAC).

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, “Missile Defense Analyst”, Beverly Hills, CA.

Here is the press release:

NASA has chartered the Exploration Systems Advisory Committee (ESAC). Committee members include leading experts from government, academia and industry who will provide advice and recommendations to NASA’s Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems.

The committee’s input will relate to plans, policies, programs and other matters pertinent to the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate’s responsibilities. The committee will meet quarterly to discuss such topics as technology, requirements, systems integration, and capability development.

Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Lester L. Lyles will chair the committee. Lyles served as commander of the Air Force Materiel Command. He has extensive experience managing large, high-technology organizations involving aeronautical and astronautical research, development, acquisition and logistics.

Other committee members include:

  • Dr. Kenneth M. Baldwin, Professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of California, Irvine, Calif.
  • Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Missile Defense Analyst, Beverly Hills, Calif.
  • Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Tom Betterton, Aerospace Engineering Consultant, Warrenton, Va.
  • Retired Air Force Col. Larry Graviss, Vice-President of Sverdrup Technology, Inc., Tullahoma, Tenn.
  • Dr. Amy Kronenberg, Program Leader for Radiation Biology at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.
  • Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Vince Russo, Executive Advisor, Office of the President, University of Dayton, Ohio.
  • Barry Zilin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Practical Innovations, Inc., Woodbridge, Va.

As part of the NASA Advisory Council, the committee operates under the jurisdiction of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The public is invited to meetings, which are announced 15 days in advance in the Federal Register. The first meeting is May 19-20 at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

The committee’s charter authorizes establishment of subcommittees in areas requiring standing advisory groups and task forces to conduct special studies.

Yes, that is “Skunk” Baxter of the Doobie Brothers. How the hell does a guy in a band called the Doobie Brothers keep a security clearance? Baxter began a second career as a missile defense expert largely through his connection with Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA). Perhaps our missile defense policy makes more sense if you’re high.

Which brings me to my point. Or, rather, NASA Watch’s point: “but why does NASA need a ‘Missile Defense Analyst’ on an Exploration Systems Advisory Committee?”

Good question. The answer may be related to the other missile defense expert on the panel: Gen. Lester Lyles (USAF Ret.), former Director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (August 1996 – May 1999).

One may recall Clementine 1 and 2—BMDO “lunar mapping” and “asteroid intercept” missions to demonstrate low mass and high performing sensor systems for Brilliant Pebbles. Clementine 2 was vetoed by President Clinton while Lyles was Director of BMDO, but—in 1997 Congressional testimony—Lyles was very enthusiastic about the role of the space exploration missions in supporting ballistic missile defense:

We’re still working aggressively on the technology program. We’re looking at various components and also looking at advanced capabilities. As a little illustration of one reason that I’m very concerned that we never forget about our technology is your next chart which talks about the Clementine. All of you are very familiar with the announcement made last December about the discovery of the possibility of [ice] on the moon. What most people say and what most Americans are not aware of was that the satellite that made that discovery was a Clementine [satellite] and SDI sponsored satellite.

We had support obviously from NASA, from the National Recognizance Organization, and other agencies but it was primarily an SDIO and BMDO innovative satellite technology program that provided the mapping of the back side of the moon and made that discovery. I base my concern in the technology realm, is that if we don’t keep up a robust technology program, we will not be able to brag about these kind of successes five or ten years from now. And we will not be able to ensure that we have the capabilities to add to our missile defense systems, and we will be for the future. So we try to make sure that we still continue a very robust technology program.

Announcing his Exploration Initiative, President Bush said “We choose to explore space because doing so … lifts our national spirit.”

Here is a motto for the Exploration Initiative: Space Exploration lifts our national spirit into firing position.

Relevant Cultural Note: Wayne Kramer thinks Skunk Baxter is a lousy guitar player. Kick out the jams …