Demand a Purpose-Driven Space Program
On April 19, 2018, Jim Bridenstine was finally confirmed as the new NASA administer, taking over the agency after more than a year (arguably more than nine years) of leaderless drift. Now that the one-time Navy pilot and Oklahoma congressman has had a few weeks to settle into his office and see what is going on, I feel it is an opportune time to offer some advice. So here it is:
Dear Administrator Bridenstine;
Congratulations on your appointment. You have taken over an agency, parts of which—the space astronomy and planetary exploration programs—have been accomplishing world-historic feats that will be remembered for centuries, while other parts—most notably the human spaceflight program—have been spending tens of billions of dollars achieving nothing at all. The difference is that the astronomy and planetary exploration programs have chosen to spend their funds in an intelligent purpose-driven manner, while human spaceflight program has been allowed to operate purpose-free.
Hubble, Kepler, TESS, Webb, Opportunity, Spirit, Curiosity, and Cassini were built and flown for reasons. In contrast, the human spaceflight program proposes projects, and then tries to invent rationales. The former spends money in order to do things. The latter does things ...