Thursday, July 9, 2009

National Academy spins its wheels

The National Academy of Sciences, frequently called upon by NASA to shape U.S. long-term civil space policy, is usually renowned and respected.

Their very influential Final Report, by the Space Studies Board, "Scientific Context for the Exploration of the Moon (2007)" could be described as NASA's bible for the road ahead. It laid the policy ground work, for example, the first fruits of which were launched in both LCROSS and the LRO.

This week, however, the National Research Council did not just elect to punt or fumble, they simply failed to show up to the game, releasing a bureaucrat's cross reference for influential policy makers unfamiliar with NASA.

Their latest recommendations to Congress, and anyone else who might be listening to NPR touches upon U.S. Civil Space Policy, and might have been written by a staff intern at the United Nations.

Rather than continue to be of real assistance, the NRC parrots political points lectures NASA to turn inward, to pay attention, basically, to matters that have distracted the agency for decades already.

NASA will, of course, welcome the study, just as it would a stupid "probing question" from any U.S. Senator within range of a camera who has a record of hostility to Space Science. The latter is low-hanging fruit in the effort to expand and institutionalize jobs programs for bureaucrats requiring open-ended situations. Achievement of goals is never a priority for such people.

"U.S. civil space program should be aligned with widely acknowledged national priorities," says the new report from the National Research Council. "Aligning the program with pressing issues – environmental, economic, and strategic – is a national imperative, and will continue to grow in importance in the future."

Sorry, but this just sounds like something written by a high school student who has been required to write 500 words but who has only 300 words of actual knowledge. It's a political statement, having nothing to do with Space Science.

"Coordination across federal agencies, combined with a competent technical work force, effective infrastructure, and investment in technology and innovation, would lay the foundation for a purposeful, strategic U.S. space program that would serve national interests."

Gee... you think so? Wouldn't THAT be something?

Anyone with slightly more than the a shallow understanding of NASA, and any knowledge at all of the Academy's widely acknowledged past work, and especially Scientific Context, that spelled out a clear and compelling national interest for a return to the Moon, and journeys beyond, even making the case for essential work needed prior to extended human activity on the Moon, like LRO, has to be vastly disappointed with this latest work.

It's Spinach.

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