The Other NASA

Bryan Preston has some heartburn over some of my space commentary (I’m not sure exactly which, because he doesn’t provide any specific links).

I guess my problem with Simberg is that he focuses exclusively on the manned space flight program, and just ignores everything else that NASA does.

That’s because I don’t have that much of a problem with the other things that NASA does (though I think that the aeronautics program has a lot of problems as well). What JPL does is great, for the most part, though they could do it even better if launch were lower cost and more available. Hubble is one of the many things that NASA has done that is worthwhile, even with the initial cockup.

But my point is that there is more to space than science, and 1) NASA is unwilling to recognize it, and doesn’t do those non-science things very well, yet it receives exhorbitant funding for them and 2) NASA pretends that the manned space program in particular is about science, when it is certainly not–it is about jobs and national prestige.

The manned flight program is usually the most visible part of NASA, but the science mission is arguably the most important– that’s where most of the real ground-breaking research is taking place. And with programs like Hubble that require in-orbit servicing, you can’t have one without the other at this stage. NASA will evolve into whatever the American taxpayer wants and needs it to be, but calling it “socialistic” and calling for its defunding is just hyperbole without thoughtfulness.

When I (accurately) call NASA that, I am primarily talking about the manned spaceflight portion.