Dan Goldin’s Catch-22: Building a
U.S.-Russian Space Station
W. HENRY LAMBRIGHT
In the spring of 1998, the administrator of NASA, Dan Goldin, asked Jay Chabrow, a financial expert, to meet with him in his office. He had charged Chabrow to head a panel to investigate the potential cost-overruns on the Space Station. This was NASA’s most important project and was widely criticized in Congress. It was important, however, to President Bill Clinton, who had made it a centerpiece of his post-Cold War Russian strategy. Goldin was under enormous pressure. The agency’s own inspector general, the General Accounting Office, and others had said that the budget Goldin had stated for the station was going to be busted in a big way. Goldin had worked intensely to maintain that budget. His NASA lieutenants were telling him they could deal with the costs.
However, a number of segments of the station were backing up at Kennedy Space Center due to delays in launching its first element, a Russian unit called Zarya. The third element, Zvesda, even more under Russian control, was further behind schedule. There were legislators threatening to kill the project if the overrun grew too great. Goldin wanted to know if Chabrow believed the Space Station was doable for what the NASA administrator had been telling Congress. Chabrow faced a man whom he saw under severe strain, his credibility under attack, his eyes “dark” and “burning.” Chabrow told him: “Dan, it’s not going to happen.”1
In 1993, President Bill Clinton directed NASA to bring Russia into the project to build the International Space Station (ISS). Russia thus joined