Of course, the hints of commercial lobbyist fingers pulling strings can be easily observed, given that both Constellation and SLS heavily rely upon Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital-ATK, and Aerojet-Rocketdyne; as well as the fact that the districts of the legislative members of space-related committees featured in Congress and the Senate tend to host large manufacturing and testing facilities developed by NASA and the commercial entities listed above. A mere coincidence this is not.
Dreams of Mars
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It was the same situation during the original space race. The Mercury, Gemini, Apollo systems, and their accompanying launchers were all designed and built by contractors. No government agency builds their own hardware. They layout specifications that must be met by all proposals. The winners are selected not just on price:performance, but based on where the work will take place, timeline, who their sub contractors are, and confidence that the government has in the contractor to actually deliver on their promises and the concessions that the contractor is willing to make if the product doesn’t perform, runs over budget, or behind schedule.

It’s not just what is built either. LBJ famously, and controversially, moved NASA’s headquarters from the Space Coast in Florida to Houston, TX. He did this for entirely political reasons, to keep the program running when some senators were complaining about how only a select few states were seeing a vast majority of the work. LBJ forced ‘the love’ to get spread around a little more evenly, not because corporate or political interests, but because it was a national program, not a state program.

The same holds true today. Who does what, and where they do it, is just as important as what they are actually doing in most cases.

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