one step forward, three steps back
Is it just me or are the news from NASA getting worse and worse? First, it was on the verge of cutting the funding for operating its Martian rovers. Then it was about to push back the launch of its mega-rover due to budget overruns and decided to keep the October 2009 deadline at the last moment. And now, it’s attempt to go back to the Moon seems to be falling apart.
So NASA, what’s going on here? Where are all the things that have been promised to us for the last 30 years? Weren’t we supposed to be thinking about traveling to other planets rather than recycling technology that was state of the art in 1980 and spending the vast majority of a really small budget on a space station and its maintenance? Yes, I know, NASA is committed to maintaining a permanent human habitat in space. But at this point, they’ve proven they know how to deliver humans to a space station and keep them alive and well. Just how much are we getting done by keeping people in orbit for six months?
Very few things that NASA does are really new. A large part of that has to do with the relatively small budgets for new technology development. Committing its very existence to the shuttle and the ISS is leaving NASA spinning its wheels. For all its brave talk of returning to the Moon and going to the outer solar system by 2050, it doesn’t look like they really have the vision or the drive to execute these projects in the steady way they executed the original Moon landing. (By the way, why are they building a new rocket to do the same thing as the Saturn V?)
Without a USSR to compete against, without a big idea from its leadership and with millions of people left totally indifferent about space technologies and their potential applications thanks to only barely adequate science education, it seems that NASA is doomed to mediocrity and its most ambitious proclamations will have an expected completion date of “one of these days.”