September 25, 2005

Can NASA do it?

Last Monday (9/19) NASA released new plans to revisit the moon by 2018. Why return to the moon. I think NASA is trying to return human space flight to an exploration focus instead of just orbiting Earth. It is a good idea but can NASA di it?

It will be a fight all the way. Can the people of NASAl move out of their comfort zone to build a new series of vehicles? All the people who built the Apollo and Saturn are nearly gone now. And corporations don't build hardware or write software people do.

If NASA was doing the right thing they would get someone who has built a spacecraft before. Like the guy who tried to build the X-38 ISS lifeboat until it was killed. Or the people who have been keeping the X-37 on life support all these years. Or perhaps someone from JPL.

Speaking of JPL, NASA needs to appoint a Priinciple Investigator to give this effort a science backbone. Science was an afterthought on Apollo. The PI on the rover project was able to give the public and the scientific community the reason why we were putting robots on Mars.

And NASA needs to do this quickly. The rover project was pushed by the launch window to Mars. A schedule like this forces decisions to made in months versus years. Buracrats love to slow rolw risky decisions they want to avoid. This project will be full of decisions like that.

NASA needs to set up a new group outside the current centers to execute this project. The existing centers are to stuck in the old way of doing business. NASA should build a new center (I would pitch Dryden because of it's rebel heritage). Dryden is out in the desert like Los Alamos was for the atom bomb project. The perfect place to keep people focused. The real committed people will migrate to this new exploration skunk works in the desert. Dryden is also close to other aircraft incubation facilities in California.

If NASA can do this stuff they might have a chance.


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