NASA’s decades-long success at enabling ground-breaking discoveries about our planet, our solar system, our galaxy, our origins and the billions of other planets out there is one of the crown jewels of our nation’s collective inventiveness and will, and surely of our global soft power.
Others have of course made major contributions as well. But from the Viking Mars landings of the 1970s on to the grand space observatories Hubble and Spitzer and Chandra, to the planetary explorations such as Cassini (Saturn), Galileo and Juno (Jupiter), New Horizons (Pluto and beyond) and Curiosity (Mars), to the pioneering exoplanet census of Kepler, the myriad spacecraft enhancing our understanding of our own planet and the sun, and the pipeline confidently filled with of missions to come, NASA has been the consistent and essential world leader.
What we know of our world writ large has just exploded in these decades, and we’re far richer for it.
But of late, the future of these efforts to ever expand our knowledge of the logic and make-up of our universe has become worryingly unclear.
First there are the recently revealed new problems with the James Webb Space Telescope, initially scheduled to launch years ago and now ...