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#1 2017-02-25 12:29:06

Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 1,952

Does NASA need a complete reorganization/streamlining?

In my course of following many of the discussions on the Human Spaceflight and Interplanetary Transportation threads, I sensed an underlying rumble of discontent with the way NASA is/has been operating over the past several decades, and has become exacerbated since the retirement of the Space Shuttle.

Back when NASA was created out of NACA, it had a pretty clear mission: Manned Spaceflight. Over the subsequent years, NASA has undergone what normally happens to bureaucratic organizations: Mission Scope Creep. The organization has expanded to areas never originally envisioned by President Kennedy, but seem to consume more and more of scarcer and scarcer funding. Some measure of this scope creep is reflected in the Earth Science "mission," which was "encouraged" by the past administration to focus on "Global Warming," and led to falsification or modification of data. The other problem is aversion to risk taking, especially in light of 2 Space Shuttle disasters and the Apollo 1 accident. NASA was at it's finest during the abortive Apollo 13 near catastrophe.

The Nixon Administration is clearly culpable for the significant and underlying changes to the agency. Many claim that Nixon was increasingly risk averse when he cancelled the final 2 Apollo flights and declined to support a Mars direction, rather than a Space Truck to LEO where we've been stuck for 40+ years. My personal take is entirely political: Nixon HATED JFK, and took the opportunity to kill the landmark accomplishment of his short administration.


Last edited by Oldfart1939 (2017-02-25 14:02:03)


#2 2017-02-25 14:16:11

From: Logres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,344

Re: Does NASA need a complete reorganization/streamlining?

Who should take the various responsibilities? Should we have a single body for space science missions, or simply beef up the National Science Foundation with a fund earmarked for space exploration?

I think it's important we keep a manned spaceflight body separate from the Air Force, but I can't say I'd object to merging that part with NOAA - which would technically make it part of the military, I suppose. That would make it NOASA, I guess? They could have "From Seas to Space" as their motto. Ex mare ut astra?

"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney


#3 2017-02-25 14:33:53

From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,380

Re: Does NASA need a complete reorganization/streamlining?

NASA had planned at least 3 more Apollo missions. They built Saturn V and Apollo spacecraft for Apollo 18, 19, and 20. The first and second stages for the Saturn V for Apollo 18 were used to launch Skylab. The 3rd stage for Saturn V for Apollo 20 was converted to a backup Skylab, which today is at the Smithsonian museum. Remaining Saturn V components are museum pieces; I could tell you where they are. But NASA had plans for a permanent human base on the Moon, so that implies more than just 3 missions. Nixon cancelled it all.

Sure, NASA need streamlining. Just try doing that. JSC in Houston Texas was designed as a university campus, and built on grounds owned by Rice University. Because the intent from the beginning was it would become a campus of Rice University when Apollo was cancelled. If you really want to streamline, build mission control and astronaut training at the launch site. One site. But JSC has sprawled, with the "swimming pool" used for astronaut training off the main JSC site. Moving it now would be expensive.

Michoud was origianally a factory to make landing craft for World War 2. It was converted a few times. During Apollo they built first stages of Saturn V there. For Shuttle they built external tanks. Current plans are to build core stages for SLS. That shouldn't be a separate facility, manufacturing of such a large stage should be done on the same grounds as the launch site.

Engine testing at Stennis could be done there. It doesn't have to be consolidated. Dryden does aircraft work, so no need to consolidate with a space facility. Glenn, JPL, and Ames do unique work, again no need to consolidate. But manufacturing large rockets all over just to transport pieces to the launch site, does not make sense. One simple way to stop transporting solid rockets from Utah to KSC, is to stop using segmented solid rockets. Period. But why is Marshall so far from the launch site? It was originally Redstone arsenal, a facility to develop ballistic missiles for the military. It's far from the coast so enemy ships can't spy on it or fire cannons at it. Today with spy satellites and long range missiles that's moot.

But just try consolidating. Try fighting pork-barrel politics. Nixon told NASA and the military they can't have separate launch vehicles, they had to pool their money for just one. So the Titan III launch vehicle used by the military to launch spy satellites was cancelled. A company in Utah made segmented solid rockets for Titan III, a senator from Utah got himself appointed chair of the appropriations committee in charge of NASA's budget. He said NASA had to add segmented solid rockets to their new Shuttle or he wouldn't approve any funding at all. So the company in his state didn't lose work; instead built segmented solid rockets that were even larger. NASA knew putting a rubber O-ring segment seal right beside a liquid hydrogen tank wasn't safe, so they knew it wasn't safe before Shuttle was even designed much less built. But the Senator demanded it, and had control over NASA's funding.

Obama cancelled Constellation. That was a president. The only use for the Michoud assembly facility was external tanks for Shuttle, so that meant completely closing Michoud. It also meant closing a lot of other things. Congress brought back Orion and SLS specifically to keep jobs in their state / Congressional districts. And president Trump does not get along as well with the current Republican Congress as well as Obama did with the Democrat Congress.

I may be middle-age and bitter, but at this point my response is: Good luck with that!

Last edited by RobertDyck (2017-02-25 15:07:25)


#4 2017-02-25 14:48:18

Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 1,952

Re: Does NASA need a complete reorganization/streamlining?


Excellent response to my question/proposal!

As long as there are politicians involved, there will be "pork." Maybe this is the main reason I've become such an enthusiastic supporter of the Private Sector, i.e. Elon Musk & SpaceX.

You may be a bitter middle aged man, but it's hard to compete with a bitter OLD man such as I. I actually voted for JFK as my first time voting. This is why Robert Zubrin comes across to many as being bitter, too. It's called "frustration."


#5 2017-02-25 16:06:28

GW Johnson
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,246

Re: Does NASA need a complete reorganization/streamlining?

Well the thing about Democrats and Republicans is completely artificial,  and the party agendas by themselves are fatal mis-prescriptions for public policy.  Each of us should be both "liberal" and "conservative" as the situation demands.  If it ain't broke,  don't fix it (that's "conservative").  If it is broke,  do fix it (that's "liberal"). 

The decision whether something is broke or not has to be objective,  based on fact.  There needs to be a REALLY serious consequence for even trying to politicize that decision.  It's way past time to ditch the labels,  the party agendas,  and the political belief systems.  They are as wrong and evil as that which powers and motivates the terrorists we fight. 

That being said,  I think it really is past time to break up NASA as we know it,  and assign its various topic areas to either new or existing separate agencies.  Space needs to be separate from aeronautics,  and R&D needs to be separate from routine operation of something.  For example,  the Earth watch mission could indeed go to NOAA,  but I don't want its climate watch aspect killed. 

I don't much care about fudged-or-not temperature data (scientists as opposed to engineers do tend to infer too much out of too little),  but the ice has melted back a lot since I was a boy (and that's hard data!),  and that heat comes from somewhere (that's fundamental physics).  Doesn't matter whether we did it;  only matters that we reduce those things we already know makes the problem worse.  Simple as that. 

The really hardest part of all will be to get Congress out of the mode of micromanaging NASA/space program projects.  Their only real role is to set a broad goal,  such as men-to-Mars,  probes-to-outer-planets-and-moons,  etc.  Let the agency or agencies in charge of these things actually do them without political interference.  Pork has no business in the space program,  because it is just too hard and expensive to support that kind of waste.  We've already seen it for 40+ years now. 

It starts with not re-electing these corrupt idiots any more.  But you have to see through the propaganda (from both sides) to do that. Fallen way short the last 40+ years,  haven't we?

In a word:  I agree,  break 'em up!


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"


#6 2017-02-25 21:20:55

From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 21,299

Re: Does NASA need a complete reorganization/streamlining?

Consolidating some sites connected together under a new direction and seperate funding would also go with relaying out how nasa would direct doing business.



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