According to Space.com, NASA is looking for public input on what it should do next. This story to me epitomizes much that is wrong with space policy and space reporting. The report is written by a “Senior Science Writer.” The survey is being sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences. The request for them to do so came in a letter from a NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science. The article, and all people involved, assume that the sole purpose of NASA is to do solar system exploration–the only issue is just which bit of the solar system to explore.
Sorry, folks, but we don’t spend fifteen gigabucks a year on NASA so that it can do science. NASA was actually formed in 1958 in response to a perceived national security threat–a grapefruit-sized Soviet object beeping over our heads. That threat having been vanquished, it continues to exist partly out of inertia, partly out of pork, and partly as a foreign policy tool. Science is just the fig leaf for all those other things.
While I’m all in favor of public input as to what we want to accomplish in space, the question shouldn’t be “what should NASA do?” The real question to the American people is “What do you want to do in space?” After they answer that question, we can then formulate some kind of national policy to respond to it (part of which might even be an overhaul, or even abolition, of NASA in its current form).
Every public opinion poll done on the matter indicates that a majority of the people would like to visit. But they’ve been intellectually bullied into believing that space is not for them, it’s only for “scientists,” and those with the “right stuff.” Let’s get voyeurism out of space, and back into the bedroom where it belongs.