Enlarge / William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, speaks in 2013. (credit: NASA)
On Wednesday, NASA’s chief of human spaceflight, William Gerstenmaier, flashed an interesting slide during a presentation that showed 23 different rockets, from the small Orbital ATK Antares and Russian Soyuz boosters all the way to SpaceX’s massive Interplanetary Transport System.
Some of the boosters, such as the Soyuz, have flown often. Many, like the massive SpaceX ITS vehicle, remain PowerPoint rockets.
What was notable, however, was not the chart but what Gerstenmaier said. “My point of this chart is this is a great way to be,” he told his audience at the Goddard Memorial Symposium in Maryland. “And I’m not picking any one of these, I love every one of these rockets. We will figure out some way to use some subset of these as they mature through the industry and come out the other side.”
Gerstenmaier’s public comments represent a significant shift from the attitude shown by NASA’s former administrator, Charles Bolden, who left the agency in January.

Bolden viewed efforts by SpaceX and Blue Origin to develop large boosters capable of delivering payloads into deep space as competition to the Space Launch System that NASA has contracted with Boeing to develop. “If you talk about launch vehicles, we believe our responsibility to the nation is to take care of things that normal people cannot do, or don’t want to do, like large launch vehicles,” Bolden said last year. “I’m not a big fan of commercial investment in large launch vehicles just yet.”
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