Daniel Saul Goldin was born on July 23, 1940, in New York City. His parents and an uncle encouraged his interest in space and rocketry at a young age, especially as Daniel’s poor health precluded him from most childhood activities. Daniel received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the City College of New York in 1962. He then worked as a research scientist at what is now NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, researching electric propulsion systems for manned interplanetary travel.
From 1967 to 1992, Goldin served as Vice President and General Manager of the TRW Space & Technology Group in Redondo Beach, California. There he led projects for America’s defense and conceptualized and managed the production of advanced communication spacecraft, space technologies, and scientific instruments. He returned to NASA on April 1, 1992, as the agency’s ninth Administrator.
During his nine-year tenure (NASA’s longest-serving Administrator), Daniel S. Goldin initiated a revolution to transform America’s aeronautics and space program. Despite lower NASA budgets, his “faster, better, cheaper” approach enabled the Agency to deliver programs of high value to the American public without sacrificing safety. This approach, however ultimately proved controversial with the loss of vital (and expensive) missions to Mars due to project management failures.
When Goldin became Administrator, outside observers perceived the Agency to be a bloated bureaucracy pursuing missions that were too expensive, took too long to develop and flew too infrequently. NASA also was criticized for an imbalance between human and robotic missions.
Through Goldin’s aggressive management reforms, annual budgets were reduced, producing a $40 billion reduction from prior budget plans. He implemented a more balanced aeronautics and space program by reducing human space flight funding from 48 percent of NASA’s total budget to 38 percent and increasing funding for science and aerospace technology from 31 to 43 percent.
During his tenure, the Agency’s civil service workforce was reduced by about a third, while the Headquarters’ civil service and contractor workforce was reduced by more than half. These reductions were accomplished without resorting to forced layoffs. At the same time, NASA’s productivity gains climbed 40 percent.
In presenting Goldin with a 1998 Laurel Award for outstanding achievement in aviation and aerospace, Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine said he has “delivered on his promise to reshape NASA into a model government agency.”
Goldin also cut the time required to develop Earth-and space-science spacecraft by 40 percent and reduced the cost by two-thirds, while increasing the average number of missions launched per year about four times. During the same time, Space Shuttle costs were reduced by about a third.
Daniel Goldin initiated the Origins Program to understand how the Universe has evolved, to learn how life began on Earth and to see if life exists elsewhere. He led a rescue plan for the successful installation of a “contact lens” on the Hubble Space Telescope, leading to startling discoveries of the cosmos. Goldin challenged Origins planners to search for Earth-like planets within 100 light years of our planet. He also laid the foundation to complete the first scientific census of the solar system and to send the first probe into interstellar space.
To expand opportunities for public and educational participation in the adventure of space exploration and research, Goldin directed NASA’s program managers to incorporate Internet access into mission outreach plans. This new policy attracted over three-quarters of a billion “hits” for the Mars Pathfinder mission. CNN reported an unprecedented half million hits per minute during its Webcast of STS-95, the shuttle mission which included John Glenn’s return to flight.
To ensure a robust future for the aerospace industry and to build new commercial opportunities in space tourism, Goldin challenged NASA’s Aero-Space Technology program to make space travel 10,000 times safer and 100 times cheaper. In 1993, he received the John F. Kennedy Astronautics Award from the American Astronautical Society and the Space Pioneer Award from the National Space Society.
Since leaving NASA on November 17, 2001, Daniel Goldin has been engaged in robotics research at the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California. He is a Fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Fellow in the Institute for the Advancement of Engineering. Asteroid 16529 Dangoldin is named in his honor.