If it hadn’t been for NASA…

My friend James often sings this little ditty that goes “If it hadn’t been for NASA I’d at least have stood on Mars”.

It almost always pops up whenever we are talking space exploration, with James claiming that NASAs beaurocratic nature has been and continues to be a restraining and inhibiting influence on humans space exploration, and me defending NASA and reminding him of all NASAs successes over the years.

Recently however the situation has become so rediculous that I find it impossibly hard to keep up my usual defense of NASA and it’s culture.

NASA has become so fixated on sticking with flying the (frankly ancient) space shuttles, while at the same time being morbidly unwilling to allow a launch if there is any concievable risk to the vehicle and crew.

The result of this is that they are jepordising continued manned space flight out of fear of public and political opinion, and the sad fact is that their delays may ultimately end up being just as harmful to their public image as any accident. The space station will stay unfinished (remember when it was going to have a 6 man crew and extensive science capabilities…), they will get beaten back to the moon by China or the Europeans. They will fail, ironically because they are afraid of failure.