6 responses to “Kicking a space program when it’s down”

  1. Charles J Gervasi

    I agree. NASA should focus on high-risk cutting edge stuff. The moon landings were incredibly high risk. My understanding is the safety rate was about 50% and we just got lucky we didn’t lose anyone in space on those missions. We could go to Mars or a near-earth asteroid if we were willing to accept that level of risk.

    It seems like the very concept of the space “shuttle” implied travel to space in a mundane low-risk way. In reality the space shuttle has a 99% safety rate, according to Feynman’s investigation of the loss of the Challenger. So in 135 missions, you expect one or two losses, but it’s not sold that way to the public.

    NASA does a good job of education. If they could send people to Mars (or a near-earth asteroid) and convey to non-scientific people that Mars is HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of times farther than the range of the shuttle, maybe people would get excited about it.

    For those against human exploration, let’s send something to explore Europa in detail. I agree with the post: more cutting-edge exploration.

  2. Moiety

    NASA does need to exist but I don’t get ‘they should do cutting edge stuff’. I always thought that they did.
    What I would say is we need to look at the moon landings in a more rational way. What was missing from the moon landings? In my view there was no ‘Now that we are here, what does we do’. The capabilities for setting up a more permanent residence were not there and many of the missions accomplished great feats of engineering but not great feats of science. In other words they did not advance our knowledge pool that much beyond we can do it. Contract that wit the space stations and see how this programme has grown and grown.
    I feel that NASA should seriously ask do we need to send anyone beyond earth orbit. In my opinion the answer is no. There is a lot to do in earth orbit and I feel that deeper space exploratin should be the mainstay of probes. In many ways that is keep doing what you are doing but change the focus.

  3. gasstationwithoutpumps

    I think that if NASA concentrated on doing space science (and some engineering) rather than on running a bus and truck service to space, they would have much higher efficiency.

    NASA’s budget had gotten very bloated, because 90% of their missions were for political reasons, not scientific ones.

    1. Jacob

      NASA’s budget has gotten very bloated? I think any rational discussion of an issue like this needs numbers.

      http://thethinkerblog.com/images/NASA_budget_history_2.png

  4. Fluxor

    We should keep NASA, but hire Nazis to run the show.

    http://xkcd.com/984/

  5. lubos

    I think one of NASA’s problems is PR. NASA actually does A LOT of stuff besides flying (or having flown) the shuttle or sending rovers to Mars. Just right now, Goddard Space Flight Center is working on some 20 different science missions. The problem is, nobody hears about them. I guess science missions are not as “sexy” as going to Mars.