Thursday, September 3, 2009

Giving NASA a clear mission

G. Ryan Faith
The Space Review

During the recent celebration of the 40th anniversary of the first manned Moon landing, it cannot have escaped notice that the United States has spent five times longer figuring out if, when, how, and why we should return to the Moon than it took to figure out how to get there in the first place. Today, despite the benefit of four decades of technological advances since the last Apollo lunar mission, the United States finds itself wrestling with the challenge of trying to return a person to the lunar surface before the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing rolls around. How is it that the agency that successfully sent people to the Moon in 1969 finds itself unable to do so today, despite tremendous technological developments, the available assistance of a number of spacefaring nations, and vast amounts of cumulative funding since the last lunar mission? The root of the problem is that the nation’s leading agency for space exploration agency has no actual mandate to explore space, and for that matter has, by Congressional legislation, had its list of tasks expanded to include a number of things that are related to neither space nor exploration.

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