Making Space Relevant To The American People

In a discussion at NASA Watch about the president’s…interesting…statements on space policy, Andrew Tubbiolo has some ideas:

Launch Vehicle Extreme Makeover:

A team of crack yet touchy feely Engineers arrive on a bus, send the NASA team to Disney World, tear everything apart, and employ John Carmak and XCOR Aerospace to rebuild everything…..It’ll all look nice, but doesn’t really need to work. Employ the typical attendees of the Space Access Conference as the mindless mob cheering the action on.

Big Brother, Space Station Edition:

Pick the hottest babes from an international set of scientists, one grumpy Russian, a cut party animal fighter jock from the US Navy and lock them in an orbital space station for one month of intense competition. Make them execute complex, obscure, yet useless tasks that employ almost none of the skills they developed thus far in their lives. Every week someone is voted out the airlock.

The Gong Panel:

A panel of three PI’s from past obscure space missions completed at least a decade ago decide the fate of proposed programs as they are presented live on stage. The proposed project with the highest score wins funding. At any time during the presentation panel members are allowed to reject the proposal by banging a gong.

I think this would go a long way towards making space more relevant to the general public. Heck, it would make me pay more attention to it.

Don’t give PAO any ideas.

[Late morning update]

Here is the full story on the president’s remarks.

He said nothing about whether he wants to continue the Bush administration’s Constellation program, intended to send astronauts to the moon by 2020. The program’s Ares I rocket is behind schedule and over budget, leading to speculation that it will miss its targeted 2015 launch date and further reduce the skilled work force at KSC.

He was also silent about the fate of the $100billion international space station. Once the shuttle is retired, NASA will depend on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for access to the station.

I’ve been trying, ever since the inauguration, to figure out if the plan is to come up with a new direction for the agency, and then find an administrator to implement it, or to find a good administrator, and direct him (or her) to come up with the plan. Or, given a lot of the other Charlie Foxtrot that’s been going on in general, if there is no plan.

13 comments on this post.
  1. mike shupp:

    My suspicion is that it’s hard to find a potential NASA administrator with sufficient experience and gravitas to run any sort of major program who would survive White House and congressional vetting. We need someone who has never purchased aerospace stocks for his 401K, who has never met a senior manager of any aerospace firm, never served any firm as a consultant, never taken an identifiable position on space policy issues — and who will instantly be recognized as a knowledgable, forthright leader once the President states his name.

    Do you have five or six candiates to suggest?

  2. Chris Gerrib:

    Unfortunately, I don’t think space policy is very high on Obama’s agenda, so we may be waiting for a while.

    My suspicion is that since Obama doesn’t have much of a policy preference on matters space, we’ll see an administrator with orders to develop a plan.

  3. Orville:

    I would have to agree with Chris, it seems that with the financial crisis, and the desire to implement socialists programs such as universal healthcare, there is little time for space right now. Perhaps space will make the Great Leap Forward in the next five year plan. Surely by then there will be a space commissar worthy of the effort.

  4. Josh Reiter:

    They are still trying to invent a rocket that can hold enough cash to pointlessly shoot into space. A trillion here and a trillion there calls for a whole new class of space vehicle.

  5. Tom Hill:

    I like the comment by Gary comparing NASA to the March of Dimes:

    I think NASA post-Apollo is similar to the March of Dimes post-1958.

    The March of Dimes was established to fight infantile paralysis, a/k/a/ polio. Having accomplished its major mission– the Salk and Sabin vaccines eliminated polio as a significant health risk in the U.S.– the March of Dimes decided in 1958 to redirect itself to a broad, open-ended mission of reducing premature birth and birth defects. Since that time, the March of Dimes has been a fraction of the charity powerhouse it was during its heyday.

    NASA was established to fly the U.S. flag anywhere in space before the Russians could get there. Having accomplished its major mission– the Apollo trans-lunar missions and the moon landings– NASA decided in the late 1960’s to redirect itself to a broad, open-ended mission of space-related science and exploration. Since that time, NASA has been a fraction of the government powerhouse it was during its heyday.

  6. Josh Reiter:

    Since that time, NASA has been a fraction of the government powerhouse it was during its heyday.

    Yeap, mission creep waters down the original charter.

    If gov’t ran businesses we’d probably still have a company to provide us with whale oil for a reading lamps. Standard Whale Oil would be billed as a alternative energy agency. But no one knows their dirty secret that it is not really made with whales — soylent Green Peace activist oil.

  7. Josh Reiter:

    Oops forgot the quotes

  8. Mike E:

    “Extreme Launch Vehicle Makeover” would at least be more entertaining and cheaper than Shuttle/Aries, and the odds of producing a practical vehicle are only slightly worse.

  9. Aleta:

    Only slightly worse? By whose estimation? What is it with you guys, bashing people who are actually doing stuff as opposed to just talking about it?

  10. David:

    Yeah, Aleta, seriously – does anyone think that John Carmak and XCOR Aerospace would produce show only rockets? That has got to be the dumbest statement ever – the only guys producing actual, flying hardware (not pretty powerpoints) are going to produce stuff that “doesn’t really need to work”?

    What planet are these guys on, anyway?

  11. Blue:

    The plan will be to figure out how to stop manned spaceflight and transfer the spending to social programs.

  12. Aleta:

    I’ve got a social program right here. It’s called reduce my corporate taxes and lower the minimum wage so I can HIRE MORE PEOPLE. Who could then PAY TAXES. And support THEIR families. Take away some of the useless overburden and just let us PRODUCE f’cryin out loud.

    Sheesh.

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