Monday, February 1, 2010

Does NASA Have a Future

I am not a fan of NASA and even though I worked on Apollo and even though I had been awarded NASA Achievement Awards for Apollo XI and XIII I always thought at best that it was a transient agency built out of cold war fears that the Russian would win the moon and then Mars.

In today's Budget release the NY Times states in a small part of a longer article:

and NASA’s mission to return to the Moon, which would be ended as the administration seeks to reorient the space program to use private companies for launchings.

Thus why should NASA be totally abandoned as is. Let me state a few reasons:

1. Launchings can and should be done either by commercial launchings or in the case of sensitive payloads, military and intelligence, by the relative agency. There are many entities who launch satellites. Sirius the satellite radio company uses the Russians! Why should the US even have this collection of people standing around at a great costs hoping to use an outdated manned space shuttle.

2. Space Science is no more special than the biological sciences. In fact it may be less so at least for the time being. NIH and the other agencies perform work that relates to the immediate improvement of mankind. A mission to the moon or Mars is at bit at a distance.

3. There seems to be little economic benefit from NASA programs. There has always been a group in NASA whose sole mission it was to show how beneficial NASA technology was to mankind. If so one would have suspected that Houston would have supplanted Cambridge or Palo Alto as the high tech capitol of the world. Frankly one never hears of any Houston start up in high tech. Thus at best the argument that NASA shoots off technology is specious at best.

4. NASA has and still to some modes degree bleeds off engineers and scientists from more productive work. In my opinion that clearly was the case in the 1960s and 1970s but is much less the case now. It has provided a sinecure for many now who may not be able to find homes in the more competitive world of high technology.

Thus my preference is that NASA be closed down, period.