BA on Assignment

July 9, 2011

No More NASA?

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Written for: Communicado Magazine
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OKAY, I’m being overly dramatic. NASA is not actually going away, just the space program. But, that’s not clear in the way it’s being reported in the news. The news filter is clearly clogged. Important details are not making it to the final product – even I was slightly alarmed at the idea of no more NASA. But, I knew there was more to it than we were hearing as consumers. Full explanation:

NASA has four principal organizations: Aeronautics, Exploration Systems, Science and Space Operations. The organization that is essentially ending is Space Operations – for now. And because Space Operations gets the most coverage for NASA, it appears that there is nothing left for them to do. There is plenty for them to do.

Think about it like this: All those things we used to learn at the planetarium in grade school and in Astronomy 101 in college is what three-fourths of the people at NASA do. They research space, analyze atmospheric details like stars and planet alignment and constellations. They follow the Sun’s movements and patterns, research climate changes – they have plenty to do.

They also build robots and other technological apparatus to conduct research. Somebody has to build the next most powerful telescope, ‘cause, it aint me. The need for rocket scientists still exists. The question at this point is if there is still a need for Astronauts, which, is a bit disheartening. It’s like someone saying, we’re doing away with brain surgeons. Try taking your kid to a planetarium, getting them interested in Space and then telling them there used to be this position called Astronaut that is no longer available.

My thought is that in a year or so, someone will figure out that hitching a ride into space with the Russians is not the best idea. This sounds like we’ve resigned ourselves to taking a back seat in space technology. How is that at all progressive or forward thinking for the World’s foremost super-power?

Recently, the CEO of Dow Chemical did a series of interviews where he talked about how difficult it is to find top talent in the field of engineering and as much as it distressed him, he will need to go to other countries to recruit. Sad. This is why we have stagnant unemployment numbers. Jobs are available, we just haven’t been educated to be qualified for them. And putting the breaks on moving forward in technology is not going to get us qualified.

And since you brought up education, just a thought about how this pertains to future generations. It’s already a well known fact that we trail most other countries in science and math education. We’re just not producing the level or volume of quantitative thinking scholars here. So, is this us throwing in the towel and accepting that we are inferior in science and math? Decisions like this only confirm our hypocrisy about education. As a society, we preach about the importance of education, but, our actions reflect the opposite. No more Astronauts sounds like the opposite to me.

What does it sound like to you?