What’s Wrong With NASA?

Wired.com had a ton of great articles posted  and if I have some free time later today I’ll post more of them.

The first one I wanted to talk about, however, was Gregg Easterbrook’s criticism of NASA.  Essentially, he argues, NASA spends way too much time and way too much money trying to please those who fund it rather than actually providing direct benefits for taxpayers.

Here are NASA’s apparent current priorities: (1) Maintain a pointless space station. (2) Build a pointless Motel 6 on the moon. (3) Increase humanity’s store of knowledge by studying the distant universe. (4) Keep money flowing to favored aerospace contractors and congressional districts.

Everyone here knows I’m a huge NASA supporter, but Easterbrook is right on the money.

I once wrote an article about how we need to, at minimum, quadruple NASA’s budget.  But at the same time, quadrupling their budget won’t necessarily do anything important or beneficial – just like throwing money at poor people, it can even serve to just enhance the problem.

$6 billion a year for astronauts to take each other’s blood pressure on the space station? No problem! Meanwhile, geologic studies increasingly show that catastrophic asteroid and comet hits were not confined to ancient times.

He’s right again.  Next thing you know they will want to check the cholesterol of astronauts as well and then there are another 10,000 other things we can check. Asteroid deflection needs to be an absolute priority, despite the tiny chances of it happening.  Why?  It’s so catastrophic, it only needs to happen once to end everything human beings have accomplished.

Think about it this way:  if you had a business that sold one product for $100,000,000 in profit, you’d only need to sell it once to retire, right?

It’s the same with asteroid deflection.  If nothing happens, whatever.  If something happens, if we’re not prepared (when we had the capacity to do so), we’ll be the embarrassing idiot cousin in the solar system.

Given NASA’s politicization, we should hope that the space industry evolves as aviation did — transitioning from ponderous government-run projects to mostly private-sector activities attuned to customer needs.

I wouldn’t mind this.  I like the idea behind NASA, not necessarily NASA itself – name the space program “D.U.M.B.” and it’d still be worthwhile.  But with hippies at the top in NASA (management officials who are crazy about global warming), and the need to please certain people to receive funding, there are some serious problems that a government program NOT run by me runs into.