Is NASA Dead? Not Even Close.

by Jason Major on January 8, 2014

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If you’re a frequent reader of Universe Today you know that, despite the end of the Shuttle program and the constant battle for a piece of the federal budget, NASA has a lot on their plate for future space exploration missions. But there are still a lot of people among the general public who think that the U.S. space administration is “dead,” or, at the very least, in the process of dying. Which is unfortunate because there’s actually a lot going on, both in space and in development on the ground.

The video above, released Monday by Johnson Space Center, shows highlights from 2013 as well as some of the many things NASA has in progress. As anyone can see, rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated! (By whom I’m still not quite sure.)

Visit the Johnson Space Center site for more information and updates on current and future missions.

(Tip of the visor to astronaut Clayton Anderson for the video!)

About 

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

jimpct January 8, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Yes, NASA has a lot going on. However, there doesn’t seem to be any focus, any grand plan. I am well aware of the budget constraints that NASA has to deal with, and the lack of public support. The shuttle was a great machine and the crews who flew them were exceptional. But, the program did not advance us beyond low earth orbit (with the notable exception of the Hubble Space Telescope). Going to an asteroid just to go somewhere should not be a goal. Mars should be the next destination. However, we are lacking the drive and determination to go, and I don’t how to fix that.

zkank January 8, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Excellent points!
The accompanying public relations video above supports what you say and makes it appear more as a hobby, instead of illustrating a vibrant and dynamic NASA.
I don’t blame NASA; I blame a Western World public more interested in nauseating reality shows rather than science, and politicians that use scarce funds to buy votes, instead of the future.
China is already taking advantage of ~40 years of lunar neglect.
India – a country where half the population defecates in the street because of poverty and no plumbing – has an aggressive space program that will soon make them major contenders.
Will US astronauts be hitch hiking a ride with them, soon?!
NASA not dead?
Not yet, but they definitely need triage or they will be!

Jim E January 8, 2014 at 4:41 PM

It only looks like NASA isn’t doing much if you think that NASA is just about manned spaceflight. Let’s see… Two currently operational rovers on mars, One probe in orbit around Saturn, others on the way to Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Pluto (yes Pluto!)

Various space telescopes and so on. In today’s budget environment, they would likely have to defund most of that to send a few astronauts to Mars, which would be a huge loss to science.

Andrew Flynn January 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

I am an avid supporter of the NASA, obviously it is not dead, but it’s definitely dying. However, when one door closes, another opens! The private sector is picking up the government’s slack and the dawn of commercial spaceflight and other private space ventures are on the horizon. Hopefully these leisurely and financial pursuits will lead to more scientific ones. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, and James Cameron were talking about going to asteroids for financial gain, I wonder if they’re still on board for that.

Theo Wellington January 9, 2014 at 11:42 AM

I’d say the other way around…it only looks like NASA is doing a lot if it is all about manned spaceflight. Opportunity (Mars, launched 2003), Cassini (Saturn) and New Horizons (Pluto, launched 8 years ago) are all from budgets of 10-20 years ago. Less than 10% of the current NASA budget is slated for planetary science (1.3billion vs 17billion). Cassini launched in 1997…and NASA has all but admitted that there will not be any future missions of this class. It’s not unlikely that Cassini will be terminated early, but at least we got ten years of science. That’s the kind of mission unlikely to be repeated, not just in my lifetime, but in my children’s lifetime, unless something changes. The Mars orbiters are aging. Recently launched Maven is a planned one year mission. Same with Juno headed to Jupiter. There is very little in the planning pipeline. When the current “great observatory” telescopes fail, there are no serious plans to replace them, the only actual mission being the fabulously over budget JWST.

Read this http://www.planetary.org/blogs/casey-dreier/2013/20131209-the-sorry-state-of-planetary-science-funding-in-one-chart.html

and then consider how young scientists are dealing with a year of no research grants
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=nasa-funding-shuffle-alarms-planetary-scientists

I am not against manned space exploration, and NASA is not dead…..but the robotic space science and exploration part of NASA is slowly evaporating. The current planetary science budget wouldn’t even start to send astronauts anywhere, let alone Mars, so raiding that wouldn’t do any good. Might have to use Kickstarter from here on.

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