Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Flying Pork

Gregg Easterbrook has leveled his rant blaster at NASA once again. NASA's spending priorities, he suggests, are determined by the outlines of congressional districts rather than the pursuit of helpful knowledge. He says we are wasting millions so that astronauts can take each others blood pressure on pointless missions to useless places. The Moon Mission is, in his estimation, a waste of time on a boring rock; the Mars Mission is beyond our grasp; the Space Station is silly and the Shuttle is a white elephant. Here's what he would do:

The agency's first emphasis should be research about Earth and the sun. That's the sole area in which NASA spending is odds-on to produce immediate returns for taxpayers. Second, NASA should fund more automated probes and satellites to study this solar system and close-by star systems—the parts of space that might have some effect on us. Almost all NASA findings since the moon program have come from automated probes such as Cassini, which a few weeks ago discovered what appears to be a water vent on a moon of Saturn. Most probe projects cost less than a single launch of the space shuttle. Third, the agency should cancel the shuttle program and use the funds to research new propulsion systems that might fundamentally reduce the price of access to space.

In my mind, Mars is the attraction. The moon is a distraction. Access is the action.

3/29/2006 5:35 PM

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