NASA, Other

What Bruce Gagnon and Dana Rohrabacher have in common

This week’s shuttle launch comes at a time when NASA is suffering from a raft of bad press, from allegations of intoxicated astronauts to reports of sabotaged computers, an article in today’s Palm Beach Post reminds us. And that means people of widely (and we do mean widely) varying ideologies are looking at NASA and sharpening their knives, either to whittle the agency down or to gut it.

The Post article quotes a statement by Bruce Gagnon’s Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space critical of NASA in light of recent events. “Should we continue to pour our precious tax dollars down the dysfunctional NASA rat hole?” Gagnon asks. The article, though, also quotes Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who is critical of the agency, although not as hyperbolic as Gagnon. “What we are seeing in NASA is the cumulative effect of about two decades of drifting,” Rohrabacher told the Post. “NASA needs to be reduced in focus so it becomes lean and mean rather than bureaucratic and complacent.”

11 comments to What Bruce Gagnon and Dana Rohrabacher have in common

  • I’m not going to be a one-tick pony, so I think it’s important to point out that some agencies, such as the FAA, have dual role of promoting both safety AND the increased use of airspace by everybody. NASA would be good to have something like this in it’s charter, instead of the flowery, kitchen-sink list of goals they currently have. (Not that those charters, mission statements, or goals matter when you get your marching orders from Congress) But heck, at least when people point out what you’re not doing, it would be good to have a simple, clear list of all the things you said you’d be doing.

  • MarkWhittington

    I think that the title of the post is more than a little bit unfair and misleading. Rhorabacher is a serious person and his suggestions for NASA have some merit. Gagnon is a nut, through and through, who regularly raves about Halliburton taking over the Moon and the US military establishing some kind of hegonomy with space based weapons.

  • Harold Godwinson

    NASA’s “raft of bad press” consists of two anonymous unproven allegations and a single criminal act at one of thousands of subcontractors. The premise is totally unjustified, it only has the credibility given to it, and it warrants none. What is more interesting is why the press have made yet another onslaught on NASA. The silly season effect or is the pack hungry again for a new scandal?

  • Donald F. Robertson

    MarkWhittington, although I pretty much agree with you regarding Gagnon, let us recall that Rhorabacher is one of the “serious people” who got ITAR applied to civilian satellites for no better reason than he saw a chance to embarrass the Clinton Administration. Stupidity is truly bipartisan.

    – Donald

  • Rohrabacher’s comment is at the end of a long article and is in no way substantively tied to what goes before, which is a long mishmash of problems with no intrinsic linkage. A classic case of journalistic painting-by-throwing-buckets-of-multihued-mud-at-a-canvas-to-see-what-sticks.

    Is NASA’s focus too diffuse? Arguably yes. But that has nothing to do with NASA’s miniscule-but-buzzworthy behavioral issues.

  • anonymous.space

    “But that has nothing to do with NASA’s miniscule-but-buzzworthy behavioral issues.”

    My 2 cents means squat with regards to the behavior and priveleges of the astronaut corps. But my neurons (deranged though they may be) can’t help but to draw connections between Nowak, the alleged bottling before throttling, problems with Ares I/Orion and current ex-astronaut leadership in ESMD, Ivins’ questionable treatment of underlings and advice to Griffin, and even old astronaut abuses of authority and leadership from back in the Abbey days. Every time I consider these things, I get this sinking feeling that the astronaut corps is just given too much free reign and responsibility within the agency, and that it’s far past time to impose some oversight and create standards for moving anyone (astronauts or otherwise) into certain types of leadership positions.

    No doubt NASA astronauts take on huge risks with every flight and are arguably brave heroes for doing so. I just question whether such bravery automatically means that the corps does a good job policing the behavior of its own members and whether such bravery automatically qualifies astronauts for senior management positions.

    Again, just my 2 cents.

  • D. Messier

    Dana has publicly accused NASA of wasting billions of dollars looking for what he views as a non-existing global warming threat. His way of focusing the agency would be transfer almost everything related to the environment over to NOAA and then gut climate change programs further than Bush and Griffin have already done.

    There’s a ton of data to indicate he’s wrong on global warming. And the science programs are a bit of a scapegoat. Take away the science programs and you still have a lot of bad decisions about human spaceflight that have nothing to do with the fact that the agency was also studying the climate.

  • Brian Swiderski

    Mark,
    Rohrabacher may be more practical about pursuing his agenda, but he is also one of many Republican poster children for dogmatism and irrationality–a pinheaded right-wing loon chuckling contemptuously as PhD after PhD tries futilely explaining reality to him. There is no difference between he and Gagnon other than motives and tactics, as the latter’s at least appear legitimate. Gagnon believes the military wants to own the Moon; Rohrabacher believes there’s a pervasive global conspiracy among every scientist on the planet, and all the “intellectual elites” (and perhaps the Learned Elders of Zion too) over decades to fabricate an issue so he can’t ride in his favorite Hummer. At least Gagnon’s fantasies are irrational extrapolations of the actual truth, not completely insane 180-degree reversals of reality. But the fact remains they are both nuts.

  • I’m going to weigh in with a few observations of my own, specifically with regard to Jim Muncy’s and Anonymous Space’s comments.

    I worked for nine years at Goddard Space Flight Center in the field of information technology. I won’t go into detail about which group but let’s just say I was involved in processing scientific data. My background is rather unusual. After starting out in physics, I switched after some years of grad work into, of all things, social psychology. I wound up in computer software partly because it was the only field in which I could find paid work. Physics and social psychology were both going downhill in economic terms at the time I was involved with both.

    While I was at Goddard I witnessed an increasingly dysfunctional highly authoritarian culture. This, mind you, was on the science side. To what extent this was caused by human space flight activity I will not say — too few observations of interactions between the two (possibly more) cultures. Diana Vaughan in her book “The Challenger Launch Decision” does make note of conflicting authorities. Many people noted the problem of lack of communications between different stovepipes. I can say that human communication between different groups was supposed to be one of my group’s essential tasks. I say supposed to be because too many members of the group were so bad at communication (including the manager and team leader) it would have been funny if the consequences were not so bad — even tragic at times. People in other groups at Goddard made similar complaints. While I am not part of the Goddard community today, I have heard major criticisms of Goddard management from people who still work there. Since my friends still there do not constitute a randomly selected group, I will offer no observations of my own except to state these criticisms are along the lines of what I did observe when I was there.

    I will make a general social observation that is shared by many people I do know. Within our lifetimes (ages up to 80) we have seen the rise of authoritarianism in American culture. Americans are noticeably less free than they were even 40 years ago. Some of this assault is by government; some by private entities. There are myriad causes of this change. The necessary brevity of this note prevents major exploration of the phenomenon.

    These days I am attempting — with what success I do not know — to sell the idea of healthy social change in aerospace and, to a significant extent, the larger culture. There are models we can emulate. For instance, even within Goddard, one can cite Nobel Prize winner John Mather as a positive role model. From what I have read and heard, NASA Ames director Worden seems like another positive role model. For a well functioning organization in a technical field, people can take a look at the software business that goes by the name The SAS Institute. People are shocked that an antiworkaholic organization with a solid commitment to not only the larger community but also to employees’ families can produce the software that it does.

    What the future holds I do not know. I will note that disturbing trends like those I have cited can be redirected and even reversed over time. That’s happened in history.

    That’s enough for now. I will come back and see what sort of discussion is going on, if any.

  • Gagnon & Rohrabacher are products of the ‘goofy’ side of americana.

    One cultures the anti-intellectual the other barks the ‘know-it-all’
    hyper-intellectual playing up to his political base. For my part in humble observation most people the so called, ‘masses’ just don’t have the same urgency or stomach for things space. The NSF is another organization among many who have also come to the conclusion that science and education do not play a major pursuit among young people’s lives. Maybe this is a temporal phenomenon, but in our N. Am. ‘dollar valued’ media culture where every ‘pimple and wort’ of indiscretion is broadcast in high definition this is business-as-usual. Maybe some are turned off by seeing the ‘sleazy’ side of huge organizations such as NASA or DOE or DOD. I’m sure the same ‘crappy stuff’ happens in any organization. Maybe NASA is too large for its britches and maybe its a bit too authoritarian (in some centers) frankly… I would bet nothing will change at NASA. Washington D.C. culture runs as a ‘self-critical’ entity beholden to none. Yes, I favor the NASA phase-out of shuttle, but to the extent that gov’t needs to ‘move on’ in space development the shuttle fleet should be turned over to an aerospace consortium industry, modifications made to convert it to a cargo carrier. Ares, Magnum etc. should be put on a the fast track to get lifters up and running before shuttle shutdown due date. And above all, in-space propulsion techniques need to employ space nuclear science to reflect a relevant space program that a public is willing to accept. The need to reduce transit times for humans and robots to solar system destinations and surface power public and private endeavours like exploration, mining and hostelry etc. needs to go on ‘full throttle”.

    I think the public will love a new space program at ‘full throttle’!

  • [...] agency, although not as hyperbolic as Gagnon. … bruce Behrhorst wrote August 11th, 2007 at 4:17 pmhttp://www.spacepolitics.com/2007/08/07/what-bruce-gagnon-and-dana-rohrabacher-have-in-common/Roberts could start rehab assignment next week – Santa Rosa Press DemocratManager bruce Bochy even [...]

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