Editorial: You can just look at the photo above and skip this post if you want.
I have been receiving many messages — mostly negative, obviously, because only people who are seriously pissed about something bother to write complaints, although i appreciate the polite tone of most, if not all, of emails — regarding my criticism of “NASA”.
Unless you have been living under a rock, or doing something more productive than reading a blog (which is more likely), you would have noticed that I have been posting space photos lately. My commentaries accompanying most of them tend to point out shortcomings of the space shuttle program.
May be I wasn’t really clear; may be people just skim, but the readers miss the point. My criticism was solely targeted towards the space shuttle (and yesterday, the ISS), not against NASA and other spacefaring programs in general. I think Hubble was great (btw, it could have been delivered without space shuttles). I think Mars Rovers performed admirably. I don’t think NASA’s budget is bloated, but time, effort and money it devoted to space shuttle was unnecessary and unwise.
Unlike Apollo, Saturn or Gemini, the shuttles failed to deliver. Everywhere else, projects of such scale would be accompanied by failure standards; but the shuttle didn’t appear to have any, for if it had, it would have broken many of them (see the first post). As much as I hate to type this, I must admit the failure of space shuttle is the failure of capitalism and politics. Aerospace contractors loved that the shuttle launches cost so much. Boeing and Lockheed Martin which control the shuttle business through an Orwellian sounding consortium called the United Space Alliance, consistently lobbied against unmanned rockets as cheaper shuttle replacements. They were also helped by congressional delegations from Texas, Ohio, Florida and Alabama, where shuttle-flight-centers are based.
There are two additional issues I would like to discuss here; many point out that military budget far outpaces NASA’s. That’s true and I am no fan of huge defense budgets either (it’s another area where Orwellian consortia thrive) but this is a straw man argument. Secondly, many point out sidebenefits of space programs. Assuming that the same amount of budget that went to NASA had gone to other science projects, we can delve into hypotheticals. But I am not going to. This article which discusses myths and realities surrounding those sidebenefits will do a better job than I would.