I Admire NASA but, Should it be Disbanded?

I do not hate NASA, it is and was a shining example of many things I dreamed about as a kid.     And I hate to say this, but if we are serious about space it should should be shuttered, and its staff released to find other jobs. 

Then we need to create a vision of where we want to be in the long term, and not in small terms…we need sweeping strokes that paint a backdrop for us to see our childrens children against and be excited.

And no I don’t want to kill all space science, it has at times kept me from losing hope in the human race but there has to be more tha wonderous pictures of far stars and Marscapes 

So after NASA is good and defunct, maybe 2 years, maybe 5 a number of smaller and more focused organizations need to be set up to support the commercial development of space as well as the advance of technology:

  • National Aviation Science Bureau (aviation technology) {small and lean probably supporting the airforce and army as well as Boeing, et al with things like wind tunnels and basic research into manned aircraft.}
  • National Earth Observation and Services Bureau (terrestrial observation/science, terrestrial Navigation, terrestrial emergency/disaster nets, etc
  • National Space Service (Space Craft Operations (like the ISS,) crewing deep space exploration, oversight of commercial crew training )
  • Space Science Board to support the above with scientist based at universities and programs funding basic science and instruments  (Future, Hubble, Voyager, Sojourner vehicles would be funded by them but not run by them)

Why not just move to this from NASA?  Because I have worked in several large-scale (read Gov’t and Mil Industry) organizations through huge upheavals in ownership and management structure and seen how incredibly resilient the ‘cultural habits’ of such organizations are.    

  • [Bureaucratic / hierarchical structures are an offshoot of early industrial age military organizations and the fundamental requirement of an organization in attrition warfare is the ability to keep driving forward after massive losses.] 

Don’t break the  organizations cultural links with the past and you will not change how it operates in any meaningful way.

  •  {Don’t worry too much about ‘corporate knowledge’ its mostly bad habits and paperwork given a gloss by few knowledgable curmudgeons who get crap done. Those folks will resurface if you give them half a chance, they love the potential and the work.}

I would throw out all this stuff about going to Mars first or the Moon first.  The long-term objective is expansion of the human meme space and resource base.  Of course the Moon, of course Mars, eventually Venus and I believe that free flying Habs (Habitats) may eventually contain the majority of the human race….in a few hundred or a thousand years.  But that is vision not a practical plan.

In the short-term keep the goals limited and real with an eye towards long-term objectives.  Grab every chance you get to make a buck, but also incentivize people to stay lean and dream.  Every ‘commercial’ space endeavor out there has more fundamental thought in it than has been put into NASA and the ‘Space Program’ since Von Braun.  He understood you needed to dream big but work the small near term stuff hard, fast and clean. 

Get rid of the idea that there is any advantage to keeping space technology ‘secret’  or that we can try and keep it as a US bastion.  This thinking and the resulting ITAR (International Trade in Arms Regulations) categorization has done a lot of damage to our space industry by providing opportunities to our competitors.  That’s over and above the damage that having the US Gov’t as the only real customer has done to the commercial viability of our industry.

Space access needs to be the province of the commercial sector.  We need variety and flexibility, not just SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, we also want Virgin Galactic/LM Scaled Composite, Blue Origin, Boeing, EADS, probably Long March, Kawasaki and others.  

The commercial lifters (and Habs) need to be regulated for safety but reasonably and lightly.  A combination of teaming and adversarial oversight is needed, the FAA wobbles between these two methods and neither is healthy.  The space access regulator should have a dual model, with two separate organizations, one, the principle one provides oversight via teaming support.  The other unit is made up of a few hard-nosed smart auditor teams who check on the partnerships, relatively infrequently.

Bigelow is right, space Habs (space stations) should largely be inflatable structures. They should also be designed for flexibility and for tourists, not professionals. Tourists, who may be astrophysicists, teachers, bio engineers, nano material specialist, or (rich) entertainer.  The ISS should become the center of a commercially driven space complex.  Its served its original purpose of learning how to build things in space, now we need to treat it as an operational asset, plan to have multiple commercial craft able to access it and use it.   Commercialize it, let our commercial innovators as well as those in Europe and Asia use it as a stepping off points for their space plans. 

Last: my mid near term goal would be the Lagrange points, the development of a sustainable space based science network and operational habits for humans out of immediate range of Earth. 

  • Are We Nuts to think about launching the Webb telescope to the Lagrange point with no way to repair it? 
  •  The L points are great vantage point s for many things
  • Set up a Bigelow Bungalow at the L point, big enough to live in for a few months at a time.  Send cargo vessels to it when you need to occupy in then a space taxi with the crew. 
  • Need to set up a new telescope? Send a crew : Need to repair an observatory? Send a crew  : Have a couple of billionaires who want to show their mistresses an out of this world experience?  Send up the wait staff. 
  • There are small rocks around the Lagrange points
  • (don’t treat them as cultural relics, melt them down and experiment with using them to make stuff in space so we can worry about getting humans out of the gravity well not all their gear)  
  • They offer access to near earth asteroids….stir and repeat 

Learn how to operate in deep space, learn how to make things (not just assemble them) get used to putting assets in place so they can support long term plans.  The only way we will start making significant progress is by establishing an infrastructure and working knowledge base that give us the keys to our future. 

Above all else get over the concept that space is the province of rocket scientists and big brains in general and know that expanding the human envelope has always been dangerous, people will die, we’ll regret their passing but they will have been where they wanted to be, on the leading edge, we should see them as the practical heroines and heroes of our future.

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One thought on “I Admire NASA but, Should it be Disbanded?

  1. I generally agree – I think it is frequently necessary to tear down so that you can then rebuld. However! Tearing down is easy – the destroyers, politicians and other idiots, do it all the time. It is the constructive side that takes the time and effort. Too often, if we just tear down, the rebuild never really gets going and we’re left with a void. Too often the plan to rebuild is initiated but not consumated – and that is most often the fault of inadequate planning in the beginning.

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