Is a National Space Exploration Administration the future of NASA? (Hypothetical logo credit: Ben McGee)
I’m a convert. Yesterday, Apollo astroanut, geologist-moonwalker, and U.S. Senator Dr. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt made what amounts to one of the most daring space exploration suggestions to date: End NASA. -And I think I’m all for it.
Allow me to explain.
In a sweeping and devastatingly logical essay published on the “americasuncommonsense” blog, Dr. Schmitt makes a compelling case that NASA as a force for exploration and national growth has lost its way. Irrecoverably.
Being the only scientist-astronaut to ever walk on another world, Dr. Schmitt possesses a unique credibility and vantage from which to make this sort of assessment. He proposes that NASA and its administrative shortcomings be scrapped in favor of a new agency, which he calls the National Space Exploration Administration, or NSEA.
There is a precedent for this sort of rebirth or evolution, which Schmitt is quick to point out. NASA itself was created as a combination of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics and Werner Von Braun’s Army Ballistic Missile Agency, (which was reponsible for one of the most ambitious space exploration initiatives, Project Horizon.) Likewise, the U.S. Air Force was formed out of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
According to Schmitt, NASA’s climate activities could be cleanly adoped by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA’s space science activities could be neatly rolled into the National Science Foundation, and NASA’s aeronautics research and technology would go back to the coalition of national research centers from which they were originally derived, a recreated National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics.
This, he argues, frees the new NSEA to do what NASA should have been doing all along – driving the human exploration of deep space and reestablishing American space superiority. The straightforward mission of this new agency, as Schmitt envisions it, is as follows:
“Provide the People of the United States of America, as national security and economic interests demand, with the necessary infrastructure, entrepreneurial partnerships, and human and robotic operational capability to settle the Moon, utilize lunar resources, scientifically explore and settle Mars and other deep space destinations, and, if necessary, divert significant Earth-impacting objects.”
Finally, this represents a clear-cut national space agency mission that (I believe) everyone who supports space exploration can wholeheartedly endorse. -And, perhaps more importantly, having such a clear agency objective would end the space exploration/terrestrial science/space science budgetary tug-of-war that has chronically crippled NASA.
Check out the essay and decide for yourself. I think it’s time to send our governmental representatives a phone call or an email and make them aware of this concept as well, so they will begin to ask the question, “is a NSEA the future of NASA?”