Monday, August 15, 2011

New NASA Office


Seems Charlie Bolden got tired of answering the question, "So, is NASA dead now?" At least, that's my guess. Even many of my personal pals, who I always over-assume are fully educated about the space industry due to my friendship being inflicted upon them, have asked me, "What will NASA do? Are they folding? Is this the end?"

Why, did the International Space Station just blink out of existence? Did all of our satellites and space crafts suddenly fall out of orbit or stop signaling from around the solar system?

I am continually stunned at how many professed patriotic Americans are unaware to a large degree about this agency that largely makes their lifestyle possible. Even worse, why doesn't the American government understand the importance of the space program -- what it has done in the past and could accomplish again if leadership meant more than squabbly politics?

Congressional Space Debates

No idea how long this announcement by Bolden has been planned, but it hit the wire yesterday that NASA opened a new office for "deep space missions" -- although under this official umbrella, they are also including a trip to our nearby Moon. Yeah, remember the Moon? Just when I thought NASA, Spacetweeps and Wiccans were the only ones who remembered it was there! ;)

The new department will be called the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, with the unsatisfying acronym HEOMD. Not even a little catchy. And pardon the implied pessimism, but it will combine the skeletons of two previous organizations under the Space Ops administrator Bill Gerstenmaier, and attempt to define what is next for manned missions sans Space Shuttles.

Not envying Bill his job even a little. Or anyone with the title of "astronaut" right now. Seems even the Right Stuff isn't immune to job uncertainty.

Gus Grissom and Alan Shepard
Don't quit your day job. Oh, wait...

Despite naysaying by certain press outlets who have no facts and rely on speculation, the astronaut corps will remain intact, the ISS will continue operations under the newly created conglomerate, and, as always, a new heavy lift vehicle will be in the plans.

A great deal of pessimism surrounds this latter directive, given that construction and budgets are continually at the whimsy of rotating Presidents, and every new cabinet in the White House changes directions before any path is completed.

Nonetheless, the current administration committed to an asteroid visit, and a trip to Mars; with this newly created department, Charles Bolden announced that NASA was "recommitting to American leadership in space for years to come."

Asteroid Landing
The idea here is that NASA will concentrate on human missions further out into the solar system, but pass the torch of been-there-done-that low Earth orbit to the private space industry... if they can produce results.

I grow weary of typing this phrase, but once again, Time Will Tell.


Diane D said...

So are you happy about this office or not? You have a bit of a bite to your tone this week, my dear. ;)

Suzanne said...

I don't think that most people understand the NASA structure and I'm one of them.

Is NASA a government agency or an independent agency funded by the government? I'm thinking about the U.S. Postal Service is set up. I'm not totally sure about that one either but my postal employee assures me that she is not paid by the U.S. government and hasn't been for many, many years. It seems to be a separate agency funded by the government.

It's very confusing but I do agree that NASA should not be subject to the whims of Presidents. Some of these programs take years to develop and to continually ditch them in favor of something new is wasteful.

PillowNaut said...

@Diane, I am on the fence! But yes, you can detect the bite ;)

@Suzanne, you're quite right, and I don't always understand it either. Maybe even the people at the very top of the agency do not! NASA is already a conglomerate of bodies that were once military projects. Other portions are inside the government, others are govt-run centers who seek contractors and sub-contractors. It is quite the spider web. It's difficult to share a COMMON VISION across all those different types of entities.

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