Ex-NASA Associate Administrator’s Anger at the “Cancer” Overtaking US Space Agency

Article written: 25 Nov , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

[/caption]

It is rare you’ll see such a high-ranking ex-NASA official being so blunt with his criticism of the US space agency. Alan Stern resigned as associate administrator on April 11th this year under a cloud of controversy after it was reported the Mars Exploration Rover budget would be cut; with an emphasis on switching Spirit off for an extended period. Soon after, NASA appeared to do a U-turn and said they had no such plans to scale back rover operations. However, it would seem, Stern was caught right in the middle, but NASA would not comment as to whether Stern’s resignation was in connection to the cut-back announcement. Stern said the short-sighted attitude of NASA officials concerning budget overruns, plus the fact he was stopped from doing anything about it, precipitated his resignation. It looks like the Spirit debacle was a symptom of a much deeper illness (or “a cancer” as Stern calls it).

So, eight months after stepping down from his post as associate administrator (second only to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin) Alan Stern has written a highly critical article in the New York Times, firing a salvo across the bows of the US space exploration strategy…

Alan Stern (NASA)

Alan Stern (NASA)

After writing the article “Wasteful” Sample Storage Box Removed from Mars Science Laboratory on November 22nd, I couldn’t help but think how many researchers could have had their salaries, research and institutions supported by the wasted $2 million that was so easily lost by removing the surplus rock cache from the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL).

Although I personally think the storage box would have been a waste of space on the MSL, its conception, design and implementation cost a lot of money and its removal seemed a little blasé. Yes, it might free up time for MSL scientists, and yes its removal will few up space for other instrumentation, but isn’t it irresponsible to be chopping off $2 million parts at this late stage? Let’s not forget, the MSL is being launched in a little under a year (barring any overruns… naturally).

It would appear Alan Stern has a few issues with the MSL too, as is evident from the scathing opening paragraph in his Nov. 23rd New York Times article:

A cancer is overtaking our space agency: the routine acquiescence to immense cost increases in projects. Unmistakable new indications of this illness surfaced last month with NASA’s decision to spend at least $100 million more on its poorly-managed, now-over-$2 billion Mars Science Laboratory. This decision to go forward with the project, a robotic rover, was made even though it has tripled in cost since its inception, it is behind schedule, there is no firm estimate of the final cost, and NASA hasn’t disclosed the collateral damage inflicted on other programs and activities that depend on NASA’s limited science budget.” – Alan Stern

Ouch. He continues to highlight the MSL saying, “And the Mars Science Laboratory is only the latest symptom of a NASA culture that has lost control of spending.”

The article points out the high-level of mismanagement in the NASA system, citing several projects that have overspent as a matter of routine. Overspending appears to be inevitable, and many “pet projects” suck funds from other missions, often without accountability. But it doesn’t stop at the MSL.

The cost of the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the storied Hubble, has increased from initial estimates near $1 billion to almost $5 billion,” Stern writes. “NASA’s next two weather satellites, built for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have now inflated to over $3.5 billion each!

The list goes on: N.P.P., S.D.O., LISA Pathfinder, Constellation and more. You don’t have to know what the abbreviations and acronyms mean to get it: Our space program is running inefficiently, and without sufficient regard to cost performance. In NASA’s science directorate alone, an internal accounting in 2007 found over $5 billion in increases since 2003.”

According to Stern, NASA overspending seems to happen across the board, but this probably isn’t the biggest concern. The fact remains that NASA’s budget does not increase with each unforeseen overrun; it stays the same, so other NASA projects suffer cuts or cancellation. I haven’t worked with NASA, so cannot comment personally, but for each NASA mission I’ve covered in the past year of writing for the Universe Today, I find myself mentioning the words “overruns”, “over-budget”, “delayed” and “expensive” more often than not. We could put this down to the fact that getting into space isn’t easy (and it is by its nature, very expensive), but NASA has been in this business for 50 years, surely they should be able to keep damaging overspending to a minimum? Apparently not.

According to Stern, the “cancer” is “endemic”, where the problems begin when scientists and engineers (sometimes politicians) try to cram features and instrumentation onto missions beyond the original budget. Then, project managers allow these features to be worked into the design, without due care of the allowed budget, assuming they will get “bailed out” down the line (sounding familiar isn’t it?). In an almost fraudulent attempt by managers (in my opinion), the projected cost increase is hidden so not to arouse any concern from the guys overseeing the budget. When the mission is being constructed, the costs balloon, forcing NASA to plough more funds into the mission (especially ‘flagship’ missions like the MSL). The money has to come from somewhere, so ‘less important’ projects suffer the consequences. To make matters worse, scientists refuse to scale back costs and congressmen block cut-backs to prevent the politically damaging loss of local jobs.

Stern continues: “The result? The costs of badly run NASA projects are paid for with cutbacks or delays in NASA projects that didn’t go over budget. Hence the guilty are rewarded and the innocent are punished.”

It is well worth reading the entire article as it makes some worrying points, but Stern is keen to emphasise that NASA is a phenomenal agency on the forefront of human ingenuity, but he doesn’t want to see the current problems jeopardise the future of US space travel and exploration. He makes some pretty obvious parallels with the current economic climate and that NASA needs to rise above the zero-accountability/bail-out climate:

To continue such accomplishments, NASA’s managers and masters must all make cost performance just as important as mission successes, scientific discoveries and good jobs. In an era of unpopular, costly government bailouts, Americans have every right to demand that NASA cease bailing out its own errant projects and make cost increases rare, rather than routine.” – Alan Stern

Read the Alan Stern’s full article at the New York Times..


38 Responses

  1. NASA needs to seriously find ways to reduce its spending, as it could easily find itself under the financial axe (regardless of promises from both parties).

    You can not justify going over budget to half the country that is struggling with paying their mortgages, credit cards or trying to find a job after being laid off.

    If NASA doesn’t get its act together, the upcoming generation may be learning Chinese (which may not be a bad thing after watch Serenity for the…um…lets just say 10th time!).

  2. Casey S. says

    Shocker… another example of how private industry is more efficient and can do less with more than bloated government bureaucracy. Just imagine how much the private space industry could accomplish if it had the budget of something like NASA. Well, here’s hoping that in 10 to 20 years time the private space industries will have gotten off the ground and being doing most of the exploration. Maybe then NASA will stop wasting our money.

  3. Cynthia says

    What happened to smaller, faster, cheaper? (or whatever that buzz phrase was)

  4. Timber says

    Why is anyone surprised, the entire US Govt, all of congress, all of Washington DC, all of the greed mongers on Wall Street, many of accedemia all the CEO’s shipping our jobs to China and elsewhere are all intellectualy corrupt to the bone and in some (many?) cases just plain corrupt, it’s a get everything you can, while you can, and damm the consequenses and everyone else. I don’t want to overstate this, there may be a few exceptions.

    In spite of all these problems with the US it is better than 99% of all the rest of the countries and governments in this world, and I’m not at all sure who would make up the other 1%

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving

  5. Karl says

    Cynthia asks, “What happened to smaller, faster, cheaper?”

    Well, it was a great concept but unfortunately most of those project were canceled to make up for cost overruns on the bigger, slower, pricier missions.

    You’d think NASA might learn from the past… Did you know there were Saturn Vs, ALREADY BUILT and ready to fly, which were thrown away when Apollo was canceled? Those were more powerful than Ares will be (if it doesn’t get canceled too) and they were paid for & ready to launch 40 years ago! One was wasted on Skylab and one left to rust away as a tourist attraction in Florida…

    But of course NASA isn’t alone. Don’t even get me started on the SSC…

  6. Silver Thread says

    I said it before, I’ll say it again, we need Modular equipment. Every time we build a probe it’s built from scratch out of custom equipment. If we want to bring down costs, we have to make every effort to create a system that provides for reusable templates and more readily available hard ware. It’s sad and frustrating to see such a state of affairs from an organization that I believe was founded with very noble intentions.

  7. dollhopf says

    Alan Stern gave a lot of deeper insights into inadequacies NASA’s real goals are suffering from and he brought them to the public. How long and how deeply will they be discussed? Can they lead to change? Is there a considerable interest group which will take care that his findings are not forgotten within two weeks? I rather think that the denounced structures will just sit this critic out. Maybe they don’t even understand the problems. Regeneration is a self-interest, but it has no mighty lobby.

  8. Dan Tillmanns says

    You are correct. That storage box would be of very limited possible future use.
    The project should be completely designed from the beginning. Any add ons should be allowed in very limited cases. Certainly a box like that would not qualify. If the rover finds something of great interest, just map its position. It’s been sitting there for a long time and will wait for a thousand years at least.
    A later pick up mission could be done without sophisticated detectors. Returning rocks from Mars is a long way in the future.

  9. byron says

    SpaceX is cool, but i won’t give them more credit than Nasa.

    Nasa has to build everything from scratch, ground zero – trial and error and sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. If we had never built the shuttle program we would probably still be contemplating it and building it in the future.

    As far as cost/budget overruns – id say thats less of a nasa problem and more a fact of space exploration. Comparing budget & costs today to 40 years ago is comparing apples to oranges. The money is less, the demand is more and the risk is ever increasing as we push the boundaries.

    I’m proud of Nasa. I’m not a big fan of commoditizing space for profits but maybe one day i’ll be proven wrong.

    After all, it was the initial commoditizing of nasa launches that led to the shuttle disasters in the first place. If it wasn’t a shuttle it would have been whatever launch vehicle was in place at that point in time.

  10. Niegl Hywel-Jones says

    A small tool-kit gets lost in space. No problems, this can happen to anyone. But this tool-kit cost US$100,000. And it seems the most complex piece in that tool-kit was a grease-gun (which failed!).

    Although it was written just after Apollo 11, I would strongly recommend people should read Journey to Tranquility by Hugo Young, Bryan Silcock and Peter Dunn.

    It highlighted (amongst other things) the bloated budgets of the Sixties when NASA was under much more public scrutiny. Forty years on and it can only have got a lot worse.

  11. josephdietrich says

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the folks that make much of the stuff for NASA the same folks who make much of the stuff for the US military? Private companies like Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, et al? If so, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are huge cost overruns. This is endemic to these companies and their business models: Lowball the cost estimates, promise the sky, and then jack up the prices citing “unforeseen circumstances” and walk back on the capabilities of the delivered systems (if they ever get delivered).

    It’s SOP.

  12. dollhopf says

    Mr Tillmanns says “If the rover finds something of great interest, just map its position.”

    How?

    – With radio transmitters?

    Therefore the MSL would need an ejection device. It would switch on the radio and place it on the right position. How many of those radios would be necessary? 500? 1000? How would they survive the Martian night/winter?

    – With a Martian positioning system comparable to GPS?

    That does not exist. And how accurate should it be to recover a stone of interesst again?

    Then how should the sensors of this proposed recovery mission be designed to identify the same thing. Should the stone be marked with red color? I guess this would change the features of the stone more than the exposition to the environment in the sample cage.

    And why should a recovery mission visit a hundreds of spots and places when a sample box would it only make necessary to visit one single location?

    I guess that the storage box was not such a bad idea at all!

  13. Damian says

    A toolbox that cost 100K. ??

    For contractors that supply space related equipment the space industry must be a license to print money.

    Who exactly is making this money?

    Despite the goal of the technology, there is no altruism on the part of the Space industry not to bleed the venture for all its worth.

    Shame really.
    How much is the dream of an advancing human race really worth?

    Damian

  14. Jari says

    dollhopf Says: Mr Tillmanns says “If the rover finds something of great interest, just map its position.”
    How? – With radio transmitters?

    Erm… Just mapping them. You know, just put an “X” to the survey map? You can make perfectly good maps from the rover’s navigation camera pictures. And you can see rover’s track from the orbit and place them to the bigger map.

    Of course, it’s a different matter, if there’s a point to make a collecting rover for a sample recovery.

    Cheers:J

  15. dollhopf says

    “How much is the dream of an advancing human race really worth? ”

    hm … good question. Next question?

    😉

  16. Rich Faulkner says

    Budgeting is clearly the best way to manage a project. And, yes cost overruns are a given in today’s deficit spending mentality.

    Taking the storage box off of the MSL was not a bad thing – after all, it did show a modicum of cost cutting. I’ll take any step in that direction, no matter how small.

    To those who think that we should explore space “at any price”, you must realize that this government (or more accurately, its people) do not have infinite resources to throw at it.

    Failing to manage these funds will, in the long run, do more damage to NASA than holding the line. Eventually, the Congress will be the ones to “take the bull by the horns” and tighten the budget. I’d rather leave those decisions to the folks at NASA. If they want to keep that responsibility, then they should do a better job of managing what they have.

  17. If NASA were a small business it would be made bankrupt. That in turn would open up the chance for another supplier to come to the fore. The core problem is that these agencies remain in existence, rather than are permitted to fail completely to allow the renewal.

    That is one of the primary redeeming factors in private enterprise. If you do not deliver, you are finished and the space is then available for another group to succeed.

    But in government, no one ever fails completely, only the funding gets ramped up and a “good” manager knows how to dodge the reality of their mistakes.

    The solution? Take a leaf out of The National Science Foundation’s way of doing things and break down all input into much smaller operations where each part has to be justified and managed.

    Micheal Griffiths was supposed to have taken command. He has very clearly not taken command. No competent senior manager would ever be seen with this sort of thing going on under their “leadership”.

    But now, things are going to get much worse. The funding for anything within the US government is going to get much worse as the full reality of the credit crunch delivers reality. So perhaps the credit crunch will prove the best thing for NASA and it will be forced into receivership and a new way forward can be found where real, professional management can deliver……

  18. dollhopf says

    Damian asks: “How much is the dream of an advancing human race really worth?”

    Well, Scheich Mansour bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi offered a transfer fee of € 75 million for the goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and a guaranteed yearly income of € 15 million for five years, while human race suffered a loss of $ 35 trillion due to the financial crisis. And in particular, the damage to public transportation in town is € 13 million each year (looks like this:

    http://www.fotos-berlin24.de/data/media/17/Berlin-randale1.jpg

    the “white powder on the ground once was glass)

  19. dollhopf says

    Jari proposed: “Erm… Just mapping them. You know, just put an “X” to the survey map? You can make perfectly good maps from the rover’s navigation camera pictures. And you can see rover’s track from the orbit and place them to the bigger map.”

    Okay, here is the map:

    http://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/hirise-extra-findbig.jpg

    I guess, an “X” here will mark the place of a pebble as would a lighthouse mark a pebble on the beach of France.

    Let’s make a selftest:

    Find a place around where the ground is covered with pebbles.
    Select on of the pebbles.
    Take a photo of the location of that pebble.
    Go home.
    Come back.
    Try to find the pebble again.

    You can’t? Do you think that the sensors of a return vehicle will do a better job?

  20. maudyfish says

    Here, Here!! Silver Thread……

    Anyone who wants to send something to space must follow the STD NASA Bible.

    Imagine the savings!!!

    But, what happens to you know…… the “The Better Mouse Trap” idea????

  21. Mr. Obvious says

    It’s easy for A. Stern to point fingers now he is away from the Agency. However, he is just as much to blame as anyone else. While it is true scientists attempt to add things, PM’s are mostly forced to find funds or else the whole mission is stopped dead in its tracks.

    I didn’t see Stern come up with any brilliant ways to improve a change management systsem which would have helped. If he did this and would have killed just one program in the final phases due to overrun (and put up with a couple of congressmen chewing his ear off), he probably would have had scientists fall back in line.
    For him to sit back and be publicly critical when he has/had no solutions is rediculous… and displays a total lack of credibility.

  22. Richad Kirk says

    NASA may be wasting money. Indeed, I think it is probably wasting more than is necessary. However, it does do research, and to some extent, that is part of the nature of the beast.

    A great deal of research leads nowhere. The more speculative the research, the less likely it is ever to get anywhere. The easy option is to can any project that seems unlikely to succeed. However, if you see the fraction of medical research that actually ends in a marketed drug, you might can the lot of it on that basis. The art is to prune projects hard and early – find out where the major uncertainties lie, and how cheaply can the uncertainty be reduced. In the case of the bag on the rover, unless you have some plan to go and collect the thing, then it will have no use. If there was a case for it, then there should also have been practical plans to recover it. But to have gone and made the thing without having made the case for it is definitely not right.

    This is not to say you always have to have a full case. Managing research requires agile thinking. If it was some new sort of instrument that might be able to be used in all sorts of ways, then there might be a case for making one anyway and seeing how it goes. But a bag? Is there a high frontier for curring edge bag science?

    Get well soon NASA. If the banks haven’t got it all, that is.

  23. RocketchickUSA says

    If arrogance is a cancer (which I think it is) then we have identified the cause at NASA.

    As a long time subcontractor employee of NASA programs, we all had a “good laugh” when it was declaired that we could go back to the moon on budget. Of course it meant building a new rocket (oh, boy, oh, boy — new toy), even though a we have SpaceX hard at work on building a private fleet of rockets, two powerful unmanned rockets that were not seriously studied for manned capability for Constellation (and the US has a history of upgrading rockets for manned flight (Mercury and Gemini programs for example), and a stack based on the current Shuttle configuration called Direct Launcher. In fact, to show how arrogance overshadows common sense, NASA just completed another study of Direct Launcher, claiming it was unsuitable for launch — but wait, we’ve been using the basic configuration for close to 30 years…

    The tumor of this whole mess is Mike Griffin. He and the “lame turkey” in the White House announced in 2004 that they were ending the careers of around 6400 Americans with the retirement of Shuttle. Most people out of loyality to the program are choosing to stay. However instead of cheering on the folks who stay out of love and pride in space flight, Griffin keeping referring to the vehicle as a deathtrap. Way to keep the troops motivated and to fly out the rest of the program!!! Will somebody please remove this turmor?

  24. David R. says

    Before October, I might have been inclined to agree that NASA is a mismanaged, bloated agency. I might have argued that it is nothing more than an example of governmental inefficiency. Maybe it is to some degree or another. But to all the people arguing for private enterprise (as I used to do), check your recent news headlines. How many private enterprises have been bailed out with our tax money in recent weeks/months? These corporations, although not science-based, still follow supposedly tried and true approaches to efficiency and bottom-line accountability. Look where they are. I don’t think there is any substitute out there in the private enterprise world that could do things any better than NASA. That’s not saying a whole lot for NASA, nor is it saying a whole lot for the business world. But all things being equal where both sides of the fence suck, NASA doesn’t suck any more than the private guys. NASA has the advantage of being in “business” for over 40 years so therefore has an advantage in experience. So the bottom line for me is that NASA will waste less money than if we started over with some private enterprise approach. In conclusion, all the alternatives in our current reality suck. The issue is the lesser of two evils.

  25. Vitor Martins says

    I am a materials engineer and what i watch every day is this: engineers doing other stuff rather than engineering. My point is this (it´s not really my point… it’s not even original :)): if you project well, you can find solution for everything… WITHOUT OVERBUDGING. That’s why i believe that with a bit more of discussion, we would find a way to “mark the spot”, getting rid of the box ;)… just messing with some of you :). PEACE :)). But honestly, it’s just a better way to work on any kind of project.

  26. Huygens says

    Stern is just upset that he was not allowed to run MSL the way he wanted to. He then got mad, took his ball and went home.

    He is just as guilty about the overbudgeting of MSL as anyone else, because Stern hoped to make an even bigger name for himself now that his precious New Horizons is off to Pluto and won’t do anything newsworthy (meaning get Stern’s name in the public spotlight) until 2015.

    Stern is an egoboy just like Sagan was. Now we get to hear him snipe from the sidelines in an effort to stay in the limelight.

    When NASA’s budget is cut and MSL stays in a warehouse on Earth, be sure to include Stern’s name in the list of people who will essentially hand space over to Asia.

  27. dollhopf says

    Since several weeks are we – our economies and thus our individual chain of need satisfaction – in great danger. Economies suffer the worst crisis since 1948. While on several spots on the earth meanwhile thousands of people already starved to death, we in the developed areas of this planet only experience loss in value but not of lifes. Our system had learned. And they were prepared. The bow wave will fully hit us in Germany in 2009. We expect to survive 😉 ALL OF US. Unemployment, less income, … – that’s it – that’s all! The gravity of the situation will presumably not overshoot our stamina. And even if, that which does not kill us makes us stronger. By 2020 we will long ago have recovered from that crisis (and even the one that had followed) and tehn expect to set out again to the Moon, and to head out for other worlds, like Mars. As we have promised ourselves here an now!

    So while still in 2008, 2009, 2010 … NASA should meet the requirements of a global crisis. NASA is not a sheik of Abu Dhabi, one who will survive this period even without noticing.

  28. sfwrtr says

    Population of the US: 305 Million.
    Cost of MSL: 2000 Million
    Cost per person: $6.66

    All right, assume that only 1 in 3 pay taxes. Sure, I’ll spend that $20 dollars over a 10 year period.

    Cost of the Iraq war per month?

    This isn’t to say projects should not be run properly and costs controlled, but lets get some perspective here, folks!

  29. Kevin M. says

    Nasa, like the mortgage industry, the auto industry, and the rest of the US economy, is simply spoiled. The easy money spigot of infinite workforce and tax revenue has run dry. If we don’t produce anthing material, if our aging, undereducated, uninsured workforce is not working, then we will not be paying any taxes in the forseeable future, and our government will not be able to afford the fairy-tale luxuries of the past. The unprecedented affluence of the last century was apparently an historical anomaly.

    Therefore, let’s scrap the prestige-seeking, politically motivated Orion program right now. What is a “deathtrap” is not the shuttle in particular, but all overly-ambitious space travel in general. The Asians will surpass us? Let them waste untold lives and money on a race back to our hostile, desert moon (talk about a death trap). We can no longer afford the fairy-tale lifestyle, based on the unsustainable affluence, of forty years ago. Time for all of us to come back down to Earth for a while.

  30. Kevin M. says

    I’m ALL for a well-managed robotic program. But as some have said correctly, you have to invest heavily sometimes to get a workable product. Occasional write-offs are an inevitable part of the process. And some of the well-designed products we have got up there have been smashing return-on-investment successes.

  31. Greg says

    This kind of problem where common sense appears to be lacking points straight to the top tier of administrators. Considering just about everyone appointed by the Bush administration seemed to have forsaken reality long before they took their positions, this is not surprising. These kinds of problems are endemic throughout the federal government and it appears NASA is not immune. Bad leadership is what you get when the people appointed to be in charge do not come from the field they are in charge of and understand very little about it. In other words those running the government need choose competence over cronyism when selecting the political administrators for the various heads of government. Of course our government is so corrupt that there is as much chance of that happening as an alcoholic remaining sober if locked in room full nothing but of alcohol for a week.

  32. redcloud says

    Anyone that noticed the “war on Mars” by Stern and the reaction it generated could see his resignation coming… and now this. True, that sample box is an incredible waste of money, and should not be there in the first place. True, MSL is way over budget. Now tell me which large project (and I’m not focusing on science projects) isn’t… I’m not american, but I must say that if there is one thing that I admire the USA for, today, is precisely the unrelenting will to explore space. Getting back to budgets… how about the overruns in Irak? How much money down the drain? For what?

  33. Jari says

    dollhopf, sorry about long answer, that’s because of time difference (GMT +2 here).

    Point taken, it would be difficult to fetch pebble afterwards amongst the several similar looking pebbles. But there’s usually bigger objects, that you can use as a coarse waypoints. The trick is to drive the second rover to the first rover’s track, after that you follow the track and keep comparing navigational images. For a map, I was more thinking about this: (hopefully link works…) http://www.nasaimages.org/luna/servlet/detail/nasaNAS~4~4~10405~112348:Rover-Tracks-Seen-from-Orbit You can see rover’s track, other hw and several craters for guidance. I approached this as an orienteering problem, as one of my summertime hobbies is orienteering.

    But (a big but) landing within reasonable driving distance of the previous tracks would be a really really great challenge…. And because of that I think, there’s no point using MSL to assist possible later sample return missions.

  34. Farcall says

    Actually, coming “Back down to Earth”, as Kevin M puts it, is most likely where we’re headed. As I listen to the news today, the terroist attacks in India, the economic melt down of our corrupt consumer society, space exploration – and this country’s drive to push forward with it – is the one shining spot in a sea of woe.

    That one shining spot is inevitability what certain types of people think should be done away with. Overly-ambitious space travel? Where? I’m an old coot that remembers the Soviet Sputnik like it was yesterday.

    The space exploration plans in the 1960’s – 70’s was 1) A base on the Moon by the late 70’s. 2) Manned landings on Mars by the Mid 80’s. 3) Manned exploration of the Moons of the giant planets by the late 80’s, into the 90’s. And 4) tourism by ‘regular’ people by at least the year 2,000.

    Now *that* might be said to be ‘overly-ambitious’, but the point is, we haven’t even come *close* to keeping to that schedule.

    Why? Too tough for us? NO! We landed on the Moon several times, even though there are those fools who would deny it. We did it with computers that, compared to those today, were dinosaurs. We did it with machines and technology that literally had to be built from the ground up, and with test pilot astronauts that had “The Right Stuff.”

    What’s going on today in NASA is the same thing going on in this sorry society – greed ,corruption, ineptness, not an overly-ambitious space program, but a space program that is not ambitious enough. It’s a failure of nerve.

    I guess it’s much more fun to blow things up than to “Boldy go where no Man has gone before.” I have a hunch, at least as far as this country goes, the “Columbus stay home” crowd is going to win. And if they do, I will say congratulations to the Asians, because the Solar System will be theirs, while we crawl around on this mud-ball, eternally trying to “fix” our problems.

    Let the Asians waste money and lives? Are we really so arrogant as to think someone else couldn’t do it better? Let them! Let the Chinese Moon shine down on what was once a great country called The United States…

  35. quantum_flux says

    The cancer is the fact that NASA is government funded.

  36. Steven says

    Well Said Farcall.

    Some estimates suggest that $3 billion could put a man on Mars (using a private company), of course to NASA this would be more like $30 to $300 billion.

    Bloated Administration, Bloated World.

  37. Maelfaesh says

    Just because your son is a child prodigy, you cannot give him the benefit of the doubt when he accidently kills the dog with a science experiment.

    “Dad, I need another hundred dollars for this water purifier.”

    “YHour projects are costing us a whole lot… we dont need a water purifier… we have city water.”

    “But dad, if I can’t get that money for the purifier, how will I ever make enough for the funeral for Sparky?”

    “What?”

    Just because NASA has been right on time in the past, it does not mean they can ride that achievement and bankrupt the future of space exploration. What they need up there is someone busting chops with a chop busting stick. Maybe if they’d ever FIRE anyone…

    Do you have any idea how many government employees there are worikng for NASA or some government contractor that do ABSOLUTELY Nothing? You have any idea how many people are paid by that organization to come in to work every day and spin on their thumbs up their rear ends?

    Come on… its not like its taking some kind of rocket scientist to figure out where the money is going. NASA doesn’t fire ANYONE… How many useless engineers are working there? How many physicists work there who actually believe that NASA would fail without them, and how many of them do less work in a day than, oh I don’t know, say… a really lazy factory employee who’s job is guaranteed by a union who has their company over a barrel that is relying on the US government to keep them in business?

    Fire them all.

    Its not like NASA wouldn’t have their pick of the brightest minds in the world to work for them. But before you can heal, you have to cut away the gangrene.

    Somebody somewhere needs to grow some balls.

  38. josephdietrich says

    Some estimates suggest that $3 billion could put a man on Mars (using a private company) …

    The question is then: why doesn’t some private company do it? The answer, of course, is that there is no obvious profit in it.

    And I ask, again, to all the “private industry could do it better and cheaper” types, how does this jive with the fact that the much of the work done in the space program now is contracted out to private industry, which sees fit to deliver over-priced products that often do not meet the promised specs.?

    Oh well, I guess it is just a lot of fun to rail against government programs.

Comments are closed.