Thursday, August 11, 2005

Tell Me Why We Need NASA?

NASA's been dragging along with the Space Shuttle program -1970s technology, by the way- and not getting around to real human achievement in some long time.

Here's the real deal: private trips to the moon. It won't cost taxpayers a thing. Those who want to play astronaut can do so for the princely fee of $100 million. All the while, humans get closer to the day where our Universe more literally expands. From the AP story:
"For the first time in history, a private company is organizing a mission to the moon," Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson said at a Manhattan news conference Wednesday, a day after space shuttle Discovery safely returned to Earth. "This mission will inspire countries of the world, citizens ... our youth."

Anderson said he already has prospective "private explorers" who are interested in the trip and could afford the ticket.

How lame is NASA's track record in my lifetime? It started so well, with landings in the late 1960...
The initial travelers would be the first to orbit the moon in more than 33 years, according to the Arlington, Va., company. Only 27 people have ever made such a journey.

This is the clarian call for the end of the directionless black hole for money that is NASA, and the encouragement of more private entities to explore at their own expense, and yet to all of our benefit.


Anonymous said...

I work for a state university's, uh, "NASA subsidiary". (I'll call it that, as it is descriptive, and effectively true since we get 80% of our funds from them.)
My sense of the problem is that there are a whole lot of scientists (not engineers) who are keen on doing crap like studying how much of various exotic chemicals are floating around in the atmosphere of gas giants.
These folks have gotten ahold of the NASA budget, and are using it for "pure" science. Unsullied by any utility.
They've absolutely flipped out about Bush's proposals to send people to other planets. They put up little signs around their offices like "Exploration without science is just tourism." though we couldn't send a camera along with astronauts and find something new and scientifically interesting to take pictures of.

Hmm, in summary: NASA's budget is being controlled by people who I don't think even *want* to see anything you or I would call "human achievement". They want to convert tax payer dollars into journal papers at a predictable rate. (Hmm, a scientific journal which doesn't accept papers that received public funding... I wonder how well that would work.)

Mike Kole said...

I don't really have a problem with scientists doing the kind of esoteric research that doesn't interest me, per se. I do object to paying for it.

I have to believe that there are people out there who do enjoy paying for that work, and therefore have to believe that there could well be private funding made available by such supporters. Who knows? It might even be more than what NASA funnels to them now.

The lack of clear goals coming from NASA is the real problem. It's hard to get enthused for a something that appears to be a "space program" in name only.