Sunday, January 1, 2012

How to Save the Space Program

In his Sunday column, Florida Today journalist John Kelly poses the question, how to save the space program?

Saving the space program is important to me, and to many of you.

Launching people and spacecraft from our soil to Earth orbit is important to United States’ leadership around the world and to our national security. A thriving, bustling spaceport is critical to a healthy, growing economy in Brevard County and across Central Florida. Venturing farther into our solar system is fundamental to expanding human knowledge.

The importance of the transition demands more attention, so the focus of this column throughout this new year will narrow to one topic: saving the space program.

Kelly posits "three main threats to the space program successfully navigating this post-shuttle period of transformation."

  • A clear, simple mission.
  • Less waste.
  • Lose the “not invented here” mentality.

Kelly closes with an invitation for you to participate in his answering this question:

I’m sure you have ideas about those, and others. I want to hear your ideas, too. I aim to utilize the column to shine the light on wasteful spending, off-mission projects, opportunities for collaboration and anything else you think is important to saving the space program.

Kelly's e-mail address is


  1. I look at Kelly's ideas, I look at your ideas, and the thought that comes to me is "Game over." We don't have a negligable manned space program because of crummy NASA managers -- they're surely no worse than the people running radio stations and universities or other government agencies. It's not because we're deep in waste or fraud or foolish choices of objectives. It's because the people who allocate resources, in government or out, don't see any point in space flight, and because the people they answer to, whether voters or stock holders, don't have much interest in space flight. You can't change this without changing the culture, and it may be that's too great a task for current space enthusiasts to tackle successfully. (Not to argue that cultures cannote be changed. They're always changing; the point is directing that change is difficult.)

    One big idea: Space program supporters should gather in one big tent rather than a dozen pup tents. SpaceX supporters should stop snarling at friends of Columbia or Mars Direct. We ought to stop spitting at people who have fond memories of the Apollo program, or even at people who think well of Mike Griffen. It ought to be SAFE and FRIENDLY to say one likes space programs, rather than entering a pissing contest.

    And a small idea, somewhat related: Let's get the right wing politics and libertarian economics out of spaceflight discussions and put honest engineering back in. Honestly -- most of the space-related sites on the internet are a freaking embarassment. It shouldn't be necessary to plow through accounts of Barack Obama's Kenyan ancestry and how annoying Occupy Wall Street supporters are and how government-run health programs persecute abortion opponents to reach a discussion of Falcon 9 flight performance. Figuratively: It ought to be possible for a nude virgin with a sack of gold in her hands to walk across our kingdom without being molested by Rand Simberg and Robert Oler and Major Tom and Almightywind. It isn't and that ought to be fixed.

    Build a broad church, by design. Take in worshippers of all sorts, without insisting on too strict a credo. Something ought to emerge from that, something more than Senate campaign talking points.

    My 2 cents.

  2. Thank you for posting.

    I sent John my thoughts, but will wait to post in its entirety until I hear back from him.

    I did raise a couple points ... (1) What is his definition of "the space program", and (2) if by that he means the current government monopoly over space access, then perhaps it shouldn't be saved.

    The model needs to change. Leaving space access in the hands of Congress is the main problem.