Thoughts on building a better NASA

Thanks to the grand publicity machine that is the Internet (and you thought it was just a series of tubes) you may have already read the op-ed I wrote for the latest issue of SEED magazine on the burdens facing NASA now and a way out. But there’s an interesting backstory about this essay worth discussion.

Earlier this year, the folks at SEED contacted me and asked if I would be interested in having this blog join ScienceBlogs, their collective of, well, science-themed blogs. I declined, since I liked doing my own thing and because I didn’t think this blog would be a good fit in their network (although there is a lot of policy and other non-science discussion there), but kept the door open for future collaboration.

Not long after, they asked if I would be interested in writing a commentary on a space policy topic for the magazine itself: the more controversial or counterintuitive, the better. Given that many scientists have blamed the Vision for Space Exploration on the cutbacks they’re suffering in missions and research funding, that led to a theme that was suitably counterintuitive: instead of killing the Vision to save science, the effort should be accelerated where possible to get legacy projects off of the agency’s plate and get sooner to the time where exploration (accompanied by science) dominates the agency’s budget. (There was an interesting back-and-forth with the editors, who wanted something even more controversial: that NASA should simply drop all space science programs. While that’s an approach endorsed by some, it doesn’t seem terribly realistic in the near or even long term.)

I don’t know if some of the measures mentioned in the article will help that much; I’m particularly skeptical of the ISS national laboratory designation, although the proponents of it vigorously argue that it will help spread the burden of operating the station. If was difficult to go into more detail because of the roughly 800-word limit on the entire essay. It is, though, another voice in the ongoing, and critical, conversation about NASA’s long-term direction.

(And yes, I did plan to post about this earlier, but my internet got clogged in the same series of tubes as Senator Stevens’, so I had to wait my turn.)

2 comments to Thoughts on building a better NASA

  • Ferris Valyn

    At least we’ve got confirmation that it isn’t a dump trunk.

    Good to know

    (with stevens, who can resist)

    It was an interesting take Jeff, even if I didn’t agree with everything

  • Matthew Corey Brown

    I always keep a bottle of Liquid Internet Drain-O!

    800 words is way too short, seems to me all they wanted was something to get people mad about. Which maynot be a bad thing, open debate is one of the things it needs.