Status Report

Testimony of Robert Lorsch given at a field hearing on “President’s New Space Vision” Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation

By SpaceRef Editor
February 18, 2004
Filed under ,

Given at a Science, Technology, and Space Field Hearing – President’s New Space Vision
Wednesday, February 18 2004 – 9:30 AM –

The Testimony of Mr. Robert Lorsch President, The RHL Group

Good morning members of The Subcommittee. My name is Robert H. Lorsch and I am CEO of The RHL Group, Inc. I am pleased to be here today to discuss this very important opportunity. For more than 30 years I have specialized in marketing communications and my clients have included all three major television networks, Johnson & Johnson, Beatrice Foods, Sears, McDonald’s, Northrop Grumman, Procter & Gamble and Microsoft amongst others.

I have also been involved as a philanthropist promoting science education as a Director and Trustee of the California Science Center, whose gateway is the Robert H. Lorsch Family Pavilion. I have received the “C” Flag Private Sector Initiative award from the White House for my work in Earthquake Preparedness. As a businessman and philanthropist I have raised in excess of ten million dollars for a variety of charitable organizations, through direct contributions and numerous national advertiser cause-related marketing programs, similar to the concepts contained herein. My biography is included as a part of my written submission.

In 1981, then President Ronald Reagan challenged government to work with the private sector to create programs designed to return a portion of the financial burden of government to business and industry.

I contacted his press secretary, Jim Brady, with an idea for a NASA space advertising program of non-commercial sponsorship messages to be placed inside the space shuttle. The 1981 proposal suggested that for one million dollars, sponsors or advertisers could place a message in a shuttle flight. The message carried on a “Plaque” would be a non commercial supportive message of NASA missions to be placed on an inside wall of the space shuttle, which would be seen during broadcasts from the mission. As incentives, each individual, company, foundation, or other organization would receive benefits such as:

  • A launch and landing party and dinner with NASA officials and available members of Congress;
  • Pictures of donors with astronauts and other dignitaries;
  • Official letters of appreciation;
  • The right to promote the companies sponsorship of NASA much like a major Olympics sponsor;

Secretary Brady referred my program to Admiral Robert Garrick then Deputy Counselor to the President at the White House. Working with Admiral Garrick’s office in conjunction with then Counsel to the President Fred Fielding, I refined my plan when Chief of Staff Ed Meese directed it be reviewed by NASA.

At that point the program made its way to the desk of James Fanseen, then Assistant Administrator for NASA.

Mr. Fanseen greatly supported this program and worked over years to help me “get it off the ground” with no success. It was rejected primarily because there was no way for NASA to see any money, since monies raised for a government agency would first go to the United States Treasury and could not be directly allocated to the space agency. Additionally there was a belief that the shuttle belonged to the American people and no one had a right to commercialize it.

Numerous officials in NASA, Congress and the Senate encouraged me then and now to stay with a space advertising program. I was approached 20 years later to participate in NASA’s Dreamtime venture, which I rejected and despite all good intentions did not meet its planned objectives for tapping the commercial potential of the space program.

In 1984, I presented a revised and updated approach to the 1981 presentation. This presentation made with the support of the administrator’s office and the White House was formally presented to Mr. Fanseen, Jesse Moore, Acting Assistant Administrator for Space Flight, NASA’s General Counsel and others.

Among the new aspects of this plan was an outline of how and when sponsorship plaques could be broadcast. It included an example of a non-commercial message. Incentives were more detailed. VIP tours at the major space centers were added. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum was suggested as a place where sponsorship plaques might hang permanently.

However despite all the encouragement, the program was again rejected for similar reasons in 1984 and again after going back again in 1989. Additionally I was told retaining the services of my agency would need to be subject to open competition & the Armed Services Procurement Act ignoring any intellectual property rights (common law or otherwise) which I had accrued over the years through my numerous writings & presentations.

Since the first Shuttle flight there have been 113 missions. If my program had been implemented, the space program could have earned more than five billion dollars, not counting Space Station opportunities. This would have been enough money to have funded NASA’s entire budget in 1982 or nearly thirty five percent of it in 2003.

Additionally the messages of support (which now will never be seen) would have reminded the public about the importance of the space program in our daily lives without taking away the public’s ownership in any manner what so ever.

Last month President Bush announced a plan for this nation to have manned missions to go back to the Moon and Mars starting in 2014. NASA estimates these programs will require expenditures of at least $170 billion. Hundreds of millions of dollars more will be needed to convert all of NASA’s ground-based and space-based video facilities to the HDTV standard over the next decade. With an under funded NASA stuck where it was in 1979 at eight tenths of one percent of the federal budget this financial challenge seems insurmountable. However, there is a way upwards.

My written submission includes copies of my 1981 and 1984 presentations, along with a revised 2004 presentation. Working with NASA, this program can become a reality starting now. And by 2008 that reality can generate at least 100 million dollars for the ground and space based facility upgrades with billions more in the works from sponsors in support of NASA efforts to send America back to the moon and then to Mars.

In fact in 1999 NASA posted its own “Commercial Space Transportation Study” on the web. In section of NASA’s own document it says “The use of launch vehicles as an advertising medium is a newly evolving market with the potential to obtain substantial revenues”. It discusses the opportunities for advertising in space including orbiting billboards. Excerpts of which are also included in my written submission. It is clear that times have changed and NASA now recognizes the value of the intellectual properties I presented through their own demonstrated efforts to find ways to initiate a space advertising program.

NASA points to an agreement with Columbia Pictures to place an ad for “The Last Action Hero” on the side of the Conestoga Comet launch vehicle for five hundred thousand dollars while the Soviet space program has already been supported by advertising from American companies such as Pepsi. Why didn’t those monies stay here?

I ask this Subcommittee to create a mechanism to get money from the private sector into NASA to enable the next generation of spacecraft to get off the ground.

I have never given up on my dream to get Space Advertising off the ground. I have continued to share my proposals, ideas and presentations with congressional leaders, representatives of NASA, JPL, and astronauts including Eugene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt, Buzz Aldrin, T.K. Mattingly, James Lovell, Bill Shepherd, and former NASA Administrator Dan Goldin.

Last October, I presented my program to Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Congressional Space & Aeronautics Chairman who recently told me, “I wholeheartedly support your efforts to help the U.S. space program and am pleased that the Senate committee is taking such a proactive interest in your ideas.”

Let’s not waste another 23 years and lose another five billion dollars or more. Let’s work as a team to get private sector sponsorships of the space program off the ground so we can deliver on Ronald Reagan’s Challenge and fulfill President Bush’s mission to take our nation back into space.

I look forward to responding to any comments or questions you may have.

Respectfully Submitted, Robert H. Lorsch CEO, The RHL Group, Inc

SpaceRef staff editor.