2 August 2010
Why NASA Can't Get Stuff Done Anymore
Posted by Ryan Anderson
A friend of mine from NASA Academy shared this excellent article about the ongoing NASA budget mess in congress. I haven’t been following it as closely as I used to because it’s just depressing to watch. Here are some key excerpts from the article, but you should go take a look at the rest of the article for some more details about the senate and house versions of the NASA budget.
Simply put, NASA has not successfully developed a new launch system in three decades. The last one was the Space Shuttle, and it was successful only by the minimal criteria that it eventually flew.
It has not been for lack of trying.
… the White House and the space agency didn’t adequately coordinate with Congress before it rolled out its new plan, and it ran into a buzz saw on the Hill, because for most of those overseeing the NASA budget there, the primary purpose of the agency is not to accomplish useful things in space, but to ensure continued jobs in the states and congressional districts of its overseers. (emphasis added)
The problem with both congressional versions of the new authorization is that they completely ignore last fall’s warnings of the Augustine panel, to which the White House responded by revealing the new plan in February.. Developing (let alone operating) a NASA-dedicated launcher and crew module was unaffordable under the old plan. Nothing has happened to reduce the projected costs of either Ares or Orion, yet Congress has demanded that they continue while providing them with even less funding than they were projected to get under the old plan reviewed by the Augustine panel.
NASA is being asked to do too much with too little by Congress, and, once again, America’s space agency is set up for failure. If this plan goes forward, it will preserve jobs in Utah, Alabama, Texas and Florida, but contribute little to actually accomplishing things in space. And we can expect to have to assemble another panel of experts a couple of years from now to tell us once again what we already know, and what Congress will continue to ignore, because pork will always reign over progress.
They way it’s put there it certainly does sound depressing… more angry letters need to be written I suppose.
That’s a really well-written article, and it does a tremendous job of highlighting my biggest frustrations with our space program: that, when the budget comes up for reauthorization every year, Congress looks at NASA from a political perspective and ends up making engineering decisions for the engineers, so we end up with a space program that is both inefficient and emaciated at the same time. Depressing indeed…