NASA Flails

A good description of the current mess, from Bobby Block and Mark Matthews:

With the space shuttle set to retire this year, and no successor imminent, today’s NASA is being pulled apart by burdensome congressional demands, shrinking federal budgets, greedy contractors, a hidebound bureaucracy and an ambitious new commercial space industry that wants to shake up the status quo.

“Our civil space agency has decayed from Kennedy’s and Reagan’s visions of opening a new frontier to the point where it’s just a jobs program in a death spiral of addiction and denial, with thousands of honest innovators trapped inside like flies in bureaucratic amber,” said space-policy consultant James Muncy.

It occurred to me yesterday that NASA is a lot like Cuba, with its perfectly preserved 1950s vintage cars. It’s frozen in time in the sixties and seventies.

[Update a while later]

An excellent analogy at The Space Review today: NASA must take a small-ball approach.

[Update a few minutes later]

Can NASA develop a heavy-lift rocket? On the evidence, the answer would seem to be “no.” Of course, the real question is whether or not we need one, but Congress does, to keep the jobs going.

Thoughts On The Vaccine-Autism Fraud

Pointing out the war on science by the politically correct:

It was this F-word—feels—that left Mr. Mnookin justifiably gobsmacked, and it serves as the departure point for The Panic Virus, an attempt to explain how thousands of otherwise sophisticated Americans could make a fatuous decision to opt out of what is arguably modernity’s greatest medical achievement. Most children “exempted” from vaccines (a fittingly ridiculous term, as if the kids place out via AP exam) are not low-information progeny. They are being raised in college towns, in wealthy suburbs and in tony urban enclaves like Park Slope, by the sorts of parents who are otherwise given to grave tut-tutting about the anti-science stances of others—the climate-change know-nothings, say, or the ovine devotees of the garish Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky.

This part really grates, though:

How do we handle Mr. Mnookin’s fatuous friend? The Panic Virus aims to engage him or, failing that, to explain him; and yet a better choice still is to spurn him. Surely this same man, at this same party, could not have denied the existence of climate change without provoking spit-takes of wheat beer or dropped forkfuls of braised ramps. And the two claims are analogous, for both deny science in the service of what is, at base, an ideology: the magical faith that sacrifice is never required—at least not by you!

As a firm believer that evolution is the best, if not only theory to explain the diversity of life and the fossil record, and that there is no credible evidence that vaccines cause autism, I get outraged at such comparisons. It is neither “anti-science” or “denying science” to be skeptical about the claims of those who have been fudging data and don’t know how to do basic programming, let alone model complex and chaotic phenomena, while demanding that we pauperize millions in the future in the name of their claims. Skepticism lies at the heart of science. And this is an oversimplistic characterization. No one I know of “denies climate change.” Anyone with a lick of sense knows that the climate has never been static. The issues are whether or not it is changing as a result of our actions in a predictable way, if such changes (if they’re occurring) will be net good or bad, and if bad, what the best means of dealing with the problem are. And we are a long way from knowing the answers to any of those questions. That many of the people who claim certainty on the matter have been shown to be hacks and frauds doesn’t increase confidence in anyone making such claims. If anyone is “anti-science,” it is those who betray it with such unscientific behavior.

[Update Monday morning]

Left-wing creationism.

HEFT, Lies…

and videotape. The HEFT team should be disbanded, and the soil sown with salt. It’s worse than useless.

[Update a minute or two later]

Senate to NASA: “Stick to the script.”

Update a while later]

In commenting on Paul’s post, Keith Cowing expands on my comment the other day, and gets more specific than I was willing to, but this kind of info is available from multiple NASA sources, on background:

During its recent deliberations the HEFT II activity look at a variety of scenarios, reference missions etc. One of them, DM1, actually meets the costs and schedule specified by Congress. DM1 entails creation and use of an in-space propellant depot and refueling capability. It also makes use of EELVs and other commercial launch assets. But forces within NASA ESMD personnel – led by Doug Cooke – have purposefully sat on such ideas and have made certain that they were scrubbed from presentation charts and reports to Congress and other “stakeholders”. Charlie Bolden is aware of this tactic.

…How does this make the White House look when they approved a report that NASA presented to the Hill last week – one that Congress has said it finds to lacking in its ability to meet Congresional intent – intent signed into law? This tactic of misinformation and subterfuge was done with the blessing of its Administrator.

So why does Charlie Bolden still have his job? He’s sabotaging the White House. Dick Truly was fired for something similar. It’s up to the White House to decide whether it wants its policy executed or not. Unfortunately, space is unimportant, in this administration or any other.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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