Friday, August 29, 2014

Epilogue: Our future in space (post 70)

EPILOGUE: In 1969 President Nixon appointed a Space Task Group, headed by Vice President Agnew, which concluded that the U.S. could land on Mars by as early as 1981 with sufficient political and financial support. Now in 2014, 45 years after I covered the Apollo 11 launch, NASA is still talking 20 years away for a Mars mission; a return to the Moon is not being seriously considered. What are the ingredients for a recipe for an aggressive U.S. space program?  Briefly: 1) An external threat, whether an errant asteroid or an aggressive China. 2) Strong presidential leadership in favor of space, similar to that of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. 3) A supportive Congress with bipartisan  backing of NASA. 4) Multi-year funding for complicated missions which are hamstrung by the vagaries of yearly appropriations. 5) Congress leaving technical decisions to NASA instead of trying to micromanage like the Alabama and Florida delegations. 6) A NASA leadership which is not afraid to take risks by making bold decisions, such as LOR and flying Apollo 8 around the Moon.7) NASA program managers who are held truly accountable for budgets and performance,  and who hold contractors to the same level of accountability. 8) A change in NASA culture where there is good communications at all levels-- where individuals feel empowered to speak out about engineering, budget, or other problems. 9) A reduction in unnecessary program requirements and paperwork so as not to stifle initiative and slow progress to a crawl. 10) And most importantly, clearly announced goals for the space program with fixed targets--and not “we may got to Mars by the mid-2030’s.” It has been a joy for me to follow the space program since the 1950’s and the high point for me so far  was covering Apollo 11. Mankind’s future is in space and I hope to be around a while longer to be an eyewitness.
#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #70 (END)

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