Nasa / Space

Wired: What's wrong with NASA

Gregg Easterbrook writes for Wired:

Here is a set of rational priorities for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in descending order of importance:

  1. Conduct research, particularly environmental research, on Earth, the sun, and Venus, the most Earth-like planet.
  2. Locate asteroids and comets that might strike Earth, and devise a practical means of deflecting them.
  3. Increase humanity's store of knowledge by studying the distant universe.
  4. Figure out a way to replace today's chemical rockets with a much cheaper way to reach Earth orbit.

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.

I've written in this space before about what I feel is gravely wrong with the U.S. space agency (desperation for new ideas and funding, dependence on outdated and/or politically driven technology, pure lack of pragmatism). Easterbrook is more cogent, concise, and scathing than I could ever hope to be. If ever there was an argument for privatization, this is it.


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I believe all of theose gentleman knew and stated that government will never do space exploration right. It will take commercial business efforts for humans to occupy, use and achieve our destiny of at least inhabiting our solar system. Waiting for government to solve an issue is often a pointless waste of time.


You missed one very key element. The U.S. Government does as much as it can to prevent private development of space. Between the DoD and the DHS, they don't want anyone trying to use potentially toxic, radioactive, or explosive devives to attempt to put multi-ton objects in space. The only things they're really allowing is tourists, which isn't really helping our heavy lift capabilities all that much. Maybe we're still only at the Orville and Wilbur stage of private spacecraft; but you'd think we could do a bit better and faster than motorized kites to metal-skinned planes. Now I'll grant you that it falls into the realm of being a BAD THING to accidently blow up your town, or contaminate 30,000 hectares of farmland, or even accidently drop the white hot 10 ton remains of a space station in your neighbor's living room. But they could at least cut out some of the red tape and costs to get permits for development.

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