Virgin & NASA

Over on Cosmic Log, Alan Boyle asks, "[w]as there ever an instance of mammals and dinosaurs helping each other out?" And Alan suggests an instance where the answer is yes: the memorandum of understanding signed on Tuesday by NASA and Virgin Galactic, LLC (an entity which the space agency's first press release of Feb. 21 specifies is "a U.S.-based subsidiary of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group") "to explore the potential for collaborations on the development of space suits, heat shields for spaceships, hybrid rocket motors and hypersonic vehicles capable of traveling five or more times the speed of sound."

But don't get too excited. As the
second press release also of Feb. 21 hurriedly specifies, the MOU is "only a framework to explore potential collaborations. It does not include training of NASA astronauts, an agreement to buy seats on a Virgin Galactic flight, or provision of technical advice by NASA to Virgin Galactic."

And no, under the MOU, which is good for two years, "neither NASA nor Virgin Galactic will be required to pay any fees or provide funds to support the areas of possible collaboration."

But never mind. Shana Dale, Esq., NASA’s deputy administrator said, “By encouraging such potential collaborations, NASA supports the development of greater commercial collaboration and applications that will serve to strengthen and enhance the future benefits of space exploration for all of mankind.”

(And for some reason the release appears compelled to confirm Shana's credentials to say all that: "Dale is a longtime supporter of commercial space development. As the former staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, she was instrumental in the passage of the Commercial Space Act of 1998. This legislation encourages commercial space development in a variety of areas, including launch vehicles, the International Space Station and the acquisition of space and Earth science data.")

And there you have it. If a space agency can be a dinosaur, with a little help from newfangled friends, anything can evolve.

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