December 13, 2004

NASA's future

Maybe in his flurry of new appointments, Shrub will do the right hting and choose Bob Crippen to head NASA. I think there will be changes, if so - Crippen's a practical, get-it-done sort of guy from all the accounts I've heard. (Not only was he the pilot of the first Shuttle Mission, he was responsible for pushing through the development of the trainer for the Space Shuttle's toilet - they still call it "Crippen's Crapper". He saw a need, he got it done.) I think any of the three aastronauts being mentioned for the position would be good, though. Astronauts tend to be scarily competent; NASA picks the best of the best of the best, just because they can. And since they spend a lot more time working on mission planning and preparation than they do actually flying, they can deal with the admin side as well as the science.

What I hope Bush will NOT do is to choose another candidate being mentioned, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, who until September directed the Missile Defense Agency. You will notice that we still don't HAVE a space-based missile defense system. One reason the original Star Wars system never got built, from what I heard in engineering scuttlebutt is that it would have been one of the most complex systems ever built, with each part built by groups who couldn't talk to each other for security systems. Not a recipe for success, and I've heard nothing to indicate later plans for space-based missile defense systems didn't have the same issues. I'm thinking this is not the person we need in charge of NASA ... unless, of course, you figure that if the government agency went down in flames (figuratively!) it would give a big boost to commercial space flight. That might be good too. Still, I think a sensible government research agency (is that an oxymoron?) collaborating with Rutan and the other commercial ventures would be the best of all worlds. Um, or planets.

Posted by dichroic at December 13, 2004 04:23 PM
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