Saturday, May 16, 2009



Find a mission worthy of your history
or abort for good.

(May 16, Huntsville, AL) They had their days; indeed they did. From their inception in 1958 through the early 1970’s, NASA delivered one knock out punch after another to the Soviet Union. Spurred on by the Cold War and John Kennedy’s 1960 directive to “ the end of this decade land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth”, NASA accomplishments were unparalleled in technology, rocketry, and pure scientific endeavors. Once the basketball-sized Sputnik first beeped over America in orbit, the country united behind NASA. Remarkably, well within JFK’s “decade” time table, NASA not only pioneered all aspects of space exploration and technology, but did in fact land men on the moon. They would continue to do so fro several more years with startling frequency and acumen.

That was then; this is now. NASA’s glory days have long since faded into the past and it’s relevance has been suspect for many years. They have continued to receive funding not for pure space exploration but rather for esoteric projects that have fed billions of tax payer dollars into the aerospace industry with pitifully little to show for it.

Long gone are the heroic days of the Gemini and Apollo projects when armed with little more than courage, slide rulers, vision and guts, men (and a few monkeys) were launched out of earth’s gravitational pull atop what were essentially ICBM missiles. So much was unknown and unknowable as the US reached into space not only to claim the blue ribbon in the “Space Race” against the Soviet Union but also because we could.

Incredibly brave and patriotic aviators such as Alan Shepherd, John Glenn, Scott Cunningham, Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Gordon Cooper, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong,(just to name a few) ventured into the unknown with confidence and pride. They achieved their orbits, performed their maneuvers and ultimately set foot on the moon with little more computing power than is in a microwave oven today. That took not only tremendous balls but unmatched brain power, engineering breakthroughs and technological leaps; each , actually a leap of theory and faith to fulfill their goals.

Soon moon landing became regular and again, routine. The infamous, ill-fated trek of Apollo 13 did not even garner TV coverage until it became an inter space drama of life and death. Shortly thereafter Congress began to “defund” NASA and from that point on it has slowly but ever so steadily drifted into and expensive boondoggle with arguable achievements and value. Perhaps the time has finally come to dismantle it, redefine the mission and end the tremendously expensive folly of sub-orbital charades it has come to be.

After Apollo was finally put to rest NASA struggled to somehow reinvent itself and came up with a disastrous, ridiculed, hunk of junk - Skylab. After untold glitches and performance problems, any one of which could have proven fatal, by 1978 it was falling from orbit only to be incinerated upon reentry through the earth’s atmosphere. If Skylab taught the “second generation” of NASA engineering and management one thing it was how to fail. The standards set by their predecessors had been replaced by mismanagement and the distinct lack of a clear sense of purpose.

Soon they ventured into the lucrative commercial satellite launching business purely to create a much needed revenue stream. Congress was continually calling to defund the beleaguered agency. They also launched our own military and telecommunications satellites largely without incident. To the extent that their “space exploration” existed, it was merely a series of deep space probes, planetary landers such as the Mars Explorer. These endeavors managed to provide a sufficient amount of scientific data to justify their existence as well as to support their beneficiaries in the aerospace industrial complex. At some point in time such data serves only to satisfy academic eggheads of all stripes armed with a never ending surplus of theories and countless ways to suck up tax payer provided grant money. Some of that eras missions ran so far over budget they wound up costing billions.

NASA has continued to be an economic drain and a haven for Ph.D’s with such specialized education's, there is little more than they could do. NASA continued to recruit that generation of “space freaks” while searching for a viable, worthwhile mission that would have some military or real scientific value. Instead, they came up with the Shuttle Program. After reaching and achieving landings and lunar surface exploration, they were now settled on sub orbital flight with little to no value. Others may argue to the contrary but, a cost benefit analysis will overwhelmingly prove that as the agency moved into their “Third generation” they were nothing but a waste of resources and funds.

Some will strongly dispute this assessment. They would most likely be those whose livelihoods were dependent on useless programs and “make work“ projects for the eggheads. NASA had become an embarrassment to its own outstanding history, a red headed stepchild disowned by those who had been true pioneers in space. The Shuttle was a glorified airplane that would venture no further than 220 miles from the surface of the earth. A far cry from Apollo 8 being the first to circumvent the Moon, to go silently around to the unknown, mysterious and potentially dangerous dark side. These men set out on their voyages in capsules not much bigger than the interior of a good sized sedan and truly went where no man had gone before. The Shuttle would in a short time prove itself to be largely ill conceived and fatally flawed by expediency and arrogance.

Most of its early flights were done under the questionable auspices of “scientific and / or medical research”. The knowledge acquired from those costly missions has yet to yield anything of practical value. Shuttle launches became public relations events where non- traditional professionals were suddenly elevated to the status of “astronauts.” What an insult to the real Astronauts. The party all came to a crashing, exploding, flaming end in January 1984 when the Challenger blew apart for all the world to see. While the Soviets were permitted their numerous failures behind the strict secrecy the Iron Curtain provided, America’s failures, though infrequent, became international news.

The Challenger was just another step the Congress and public took away from the “space” program.

The Shuttle missions were halted for several years after the Challenger tragedy; a tragedy compounded by the sorry fact that it can have been averted if not for a poorly place, faulty 57 cent “O” ring. How careless and cavalier had the agency that once boasted “Failure is not an Option” as their motto become?

The Third generation of NASA trudged on through more deep space probes and the launching of the Hubble Telescope which promised to provide more information about the “origins and workings” of our ever expanding universe than any thing in history. This billion dollar project was the ultimate in wasteful egghead placating, aerospace industry pacifying, projects.

To this day we have yet to even partially explore the farthest depths of the Earth’s oceans, venture into that most hostile of environments, but, we seemed comfortable with spending billions to try to prove a theory dreamed up by Albert Einstein almost 75 years prior. The heights of pork barrel spending, hypocrisy and uselessness have arrived. NASA no longer retains any utility and now, with the final repairs made to the Hubble completed this week, it is time for a series assessment of the Agency’s future.

Many other countries can provide satellite launching capabilities virtually all of whom can place a satellite in orbit far more economically than NASA. Several private companies have also entered the space industry offering cutting edge technology, innovative approaches and new and novel perspectives and ideas. They have left the cumbersome Agency in the dust.

The past years have seen the dismantling , demolition and destruction of some of the largest man made structures ever produced, all of which were specifically designed for NASA and in particular, the Apollo program. Those controlled demolition's represented the end of an era and, after the dust cleared left NASA naked, striped of any discernible useful purpose. The Agency itself should now be demolished, dismantled, if not blown up. The time has come.

From this northern Alabama city, Huntsville, the echoes and ghosts of NASA’s finest days still reverberate. It was here that German scientists such as Werner Von Braun dreamed, designed and built some of the most impressive rockets ever seen. Their vision and purpose was clear and they knew success that awed the world.

The men that were present when NASA came into being were of such character and brilliance that their likes will never be seen again, certainly not in the name of space exploration.

The hundreds of billions NASA has leached from the national treasury during this, its fumbling third generation could have funded countless areas of research that may have provided practical discoveries for our greater good whether they be in energy technology, water purification, harnessing natural resources more effectively or any number of other areas desperately demanding attention.

NASA, you were one of a kind but, like most third generation businesses the time has come to shut your doors, have a liquidation sale, keep what works and get rid of the rest.

Copyright TBC 2009 © All Rights Reserved

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