August 30, 2013

"Setting national goals" is totalitarian malarky...

Space Experts: NASA Is Dangerously Adrift - Popular Mechanics:

In a call with reporters today, the founder and the current head of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., painted a bleak picture for the future of NASA's manned spaceflight program based on its current direction. Their comments came on the eve of Congressional authorization for the space agency's budget.

"The sense of drift or the sense of lack of consensus is still fairly serious" Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute, said of the political debate over NASA's course. Pace, who previously served as NASA's Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation, was joined in a press conference today by John Logsdon, professor emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University and founder of the Space Policy Institute.

"I think what you're seeing in the current debate over priorities really is the residual of 40 years of a failure to reach consensus on what the U.S. should be doing in space and particularly in human spaceflight," says Logsdon, who also served on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003.

NASA's manned spaceflight program arguably has been without a clear mission since Apollo 17 returned from the moon in 1972, carrying the last crew to leave low-Earth orbit. The space shuttle, conceived during the Nixon administration, "did not have a larger strategic purpose," Pace says. "It was merely a capability." He argues that this build-it-and-they-will-come philosophy still holds sway today. Now, as before, NASA's focus is on building capabilities such as a new spacecraft and launchers and then figuring out that to do with them afterwards. "I feel like I'm listening to an echo from the Nixon administration," he says...

I think the Space Policy Institute is basically making the same underlying mistake NASA is making. They share the assumption that he US should have a space policy, and a "space program." That "space" is something done by government is never questioned.

I think the whole concept of "setting national goals" is totalitarian malarky. Industrial Age thinking. A ponderous idea that does not work any more. Our country's only broad goal should be to bring down the cost of getting into orbit, so that lots of people will be able to afford to get out of Earth's gravity well, and live in space. Then they will figure out what space is, and what it's good for.

And bringing down the cost of getting to orbit itself requires that government get out of the way. Especially NASA, which is lost in a dream of "programs," to be done by experts while all us little people watch on television. Pfooey. We should kill NASA and use the savings to help jump-start private space flight.

. Posted by John Weidner at August 30, 2013 8:24 PM
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