NASA, SBA use Google+ to praise small business

While NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover explores an alien world, two senior Obama administration officials and others celebrated small businesses’ contributions to the mission back home on Earth.

On Sept. 19, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills joined with other field experts and contractors in a Google+ Hangout -- an interactive event held via Google's social media platform -- to talk about how small contractors have helped the Curiosity mission.

The Mars rover Curiosity has set off from its landing vicinity on a trek to a science destination about a quarter-mile away, where it may begin using its drill, the agency announced in August. Bolden described its mission as akin to hiking down into the Grand Canyon and back up the other side.

On camera, Bolden sat beside Mary Baker, president of ATA Engineering, the company that played a large role in developing Curiosity to successfully survive the landing’s impact and to work in the low gravity and cold, thin air of Mars. On another camera in San Diego, Calif., many of ATA’s 50 engineers who worked with NASA sat listening to Bolden and Mills speak. Then two of the engineers went into detail about their work on the Curiosity’s arms and mobility system.

Small business contractors working with NASA officials “have been essential to Curiosity’s early and ongoing success,” Bolden said.

NASA awarded $2.5 billion in prime contracts to small companies in fiscal 2011, according SBA’s annual small business score card. The previous year, NASA officials awarded $2.41 billion in prime contracts to small firms. The amount equaled nearly 18 percent of the agency’s contract spending, up from 15.64 percent in fiscal 2010. Overall, NASA earned a B grade from SBA.

Mills said NASA understands the importance small firms can play in government operations and far-out missions.

“This is a terrific example of how America’s small businesses get the job done,” she said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group