Is NASA Frozen in Time?

I am presently writing comments on a Space Policy Paper and I was pointing the author to a column written by my father, John G. Cramer for Analog Magazine TWENTY years ago. The second paragraph is terribly timely so much so it is scary.

I’ve just returned from Vancouver, BC, where I was Science Guest of Honor at V-Con. Dr. David Stephenson, a Canadian space scientist, remarked there that each nation seems to play its own national game in space. The Russians play Chess, plotting their moves with a strategy that looks decades into the future. The Japanese play Go, systematically surrounding each technological territory with their pieces until they make it their own. The Europeans play Bridge, kicking a lot under the table while presenting a smooth performance above its surface. And what of the USA? Well, in the 1960′s we were playing Monopoly. But now, under the present policies of NASA, we seem to have switched to Trivial Pursuits …

By the time you read this some 4-6 months from now, our democratic processes will have elected a new president. He will, among other things, have to decide what to do about the NASA problem. At minimum a new NASA Administrator must be appointed, and perhaps the space agency will also be restructured as some critics are presently suggesting. Will there be further plodding along the dismal path that has lead from the triumph of Apollo to the Challenger Disaster? Will the agency continue to place science far down in the priority queue, going always for the Premature Choice and the job security of mammoth engineering projects. Will NASA continue to withhold any investments in the future, in advanced propulsion technologies, and in new ideas? I hope not.

I hope that the new President will choose carefully when making the decisions on the new head for NASA and on whether to restructure the agency. The new President can get advice from anyone he chooses. I think that he should have a very long talk with Freeman Dyson.    

 From Dyson on Space in  Mid-December-1988 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact Magazine

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3 Responses to Is NASA Frozen in Time?

  1. Bill Rico says:

    the 80′s seemed to be wild lol
    Just look at NASA now…Give it up to Bush, because he announced deep space travel before Obama(not that it matters because i believe Obama/advisers would have thought the same)…
    lol i was almost fooled by thinking this article was produced in our times
    Thanks for the education!!!
    ohh…I got a question…what year/decade was the T.I.E engine created in? just a tad off topic but thanks :)

  2. karenNSSshea says:

    I would love to know what Obama wants to do with NASA, but it is clear no agency needs CHANGE more than NASA.

  3. tony rusi says:

    What pisses me off about Bush was he had grand mars ideas for NASA but no money. Bussard had his fusion work shut down because the Iraq war was too damn expensive. Now all of a sudden there is 800 billion to spend on stuff? It is too bad that Obama’s fans appear to be too “Green” to accept the fact that energy from space is a good idea and can even be cheaper than coal, which costs 10 cents per Kwhr. If we put money into carbon nanotube material strengthening research would could make a material 5 times stronger that anything we have. That would drop the price of power from Sunsats to 8 to 10 cents per Kwhr. But even space guys I know still think wind and earth base solar will always be cheaper. They are wrong. Wind and earth solar use TEN TIMES MORE LAND than Sunsats. And they are not cheaper when you consider the cost of the electrical grid updates needed and the energy storage capacity needed to make them “BASELINE” power. That is synchronized 120 volts alternating current available 24/7, 365 days a year. And in space the solar energy has not been blocked by the atmosphere, so there is FIVES TIMES MORE available per square meter.

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