NASA’s success is in many ways comparable to the Roman Empire from which it gets so many of its program names. Starting with the Apollo program in 1969 when NASA first landed on the moon, it has established itself as a powerhouse for science incomparable to most other international programs for the progression of man into space. And yet the analogy continues even further as now NASA has found itself in a period of gluttony and waste. And NASA’s Deputy Administrator says it’s time for that to stop.
The second most important figure in NASA, Lori Garver said in her address that the program should be utilizing commercial ventures to put civilians into low Earth Orbit while simultaneously taking on other missions beyond the current plans for the space program. Future plans may involve travel to Mars or a return to the Moon or the study of near Earth asteroids for mining operations.
The space program has in many ways undergone a massive image change since its creation, and in still more ways it even now is evolving with each day. First it was seen as a risky venture, but a necessary one to combat the Russians who had placed Sputnik, a simple satellite designed to emit radio signals to Earth but holding little to no other military use. Sputnik stood as a symbol in those days to the power and scientific prowess a communist nation could create. As a result, NASA was created to show the Soviet Union could not stand in the face of Capitalist enterprise. And so the Apollo mission not only put humans into space, but took three men all the way to the moon’s surface and then brought them back safely. Since that time the space program has been taken for granted as one of the most important and technologically advanced programs ever conceived. And for the past 40 years NASA has been more or less riding this momentum into the stars, but very slowly.
Granted the program has made considerable strides since that time, but the real purpose of the space program is to satisfy the tax payers who make it possible. And since most people who are interested in the space program are interested in only one thing (the colonization and manned exploration of Mars for future human habitation) then the program has been acting merely as an unfortunate tax payer’s burden. In reality the space program only uses up a tiny fraction of the budget and promises to expand not only the United States, but the whole world into the vast infinity of space. The only problem is one of speed.
Granted any space program is going to find it difficult to bring about any space mission more fantastic or crowd pleasing than the Apollo missions, but there are also plenty of useful and industrious missions NASA proposes and then subsequently cancels in favor of smaller programs or cooperative ventures dedicated to putting up research satellites. Perhaps Lori Garver’s proposal will rocket us into the future the way NASA was intended to be.