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"little hope for sustained world leadership"

I visited Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral last week.  I was there to watch the shuttle launch, a launch eventually cancelled due to equipment failures.  Missing that take-off was deeply disappointing but that disappointment was replaced by lots of awe as the missus and I checked out the static displays and other space related mock-ups and exhibits at their sprawling complex not an hour east of Orlando.

It's an incredible and inspiring place that takes you back to a time when the U.S. of A. took and kept the lead in all things related to space and aeronautics.

Which made the visit bitter-sweet.  That leadership role is now being squandered.  The shuttle launch, scheduled at this point for the end of this month, will be one of the last two or three of the program.  After that, America will need to rely on other countries in the short term to put our people into orbit. 

But we're not just squandering leadership in space.  Roy Harris Jr., a retired head of aeronautics at our local NASA Center, paints the bleak picture as to America's declining role in the arena we at one time owned fully:

The plight of NASA's aeronautics program has been lost in the debate over the future of NASA.

This highly effective research program, which has been the flagship program for the Langley Research Center for 90 years and which enabled the U.S. to achieve world aviation supremacy after WWI and maintain it for more than nine decades, has been relegated to the lowest priority and reduced to near oblivion.


Research test facilities are no longer well maintained, and many of the top researchers have moved on to other NASA programs.

Without a major change in the priority of NASA's aeronautics program, there is little hope for sustained world leadership of aeronautics R&T by NASA.

All of this comes at a time when our nation faces huge technical challenges to the future of civil and military aviation. NASA should be leading an effort to address these issues with a major new program focused on "green" aviation technologies. NASA should also initiate a major new effort to develop the technologies that will enable continued long-term growth in our air transportation system.

Further, it makes no sense at all for NASA's technical expertise and test facilities not to be used to help solve military aviation problems.

The importance of aviation to U.S. competitiveness and defense demand that NASA expand and revitalize its aeronautics program. To meet the challenges, the program needs a budget in the $1.0 billion a year range and a revitalized management structure focused on technical leadership and research excellence with significant industry and university participation.

Unfortunately, the current uncertainty in the future direction of NASA's human space flight program, which overwhelms all other NASA issues, and the federal budget realities do not bode well for the future of the aeronautics program.

Uncertainties fueled by a President who looks to America's past with disdain rather than pride and who seems to be doing his level best to dismantle the one government program that has reaped the most benefit to America and the world.

Sad, very sad, stuff.


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Comments (5)

Nonsense!!NASA is ... (Below threshold)


NASA is fully engaged and focused on the most important mission they could ever dream of having: making muslims all over the world feel better about themselves and their desire to drive us back to a 7th century existence.

NASA's second most important mission was to ensure continued acceptance of AGW to create a political climate open to even more onerous and intrusive government control.

And it would have worked to, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids who requested to see our data, which we vouched for, and was the basis for all other datasets which supposedly provided the basis for "independent" similar conclusions. Of course, the "lost" all of that conclusive raw data since no one had ever heard of a database backup or anything fancy like that.

I mean, you didn't really think NASA was about space exploration anymore, did you?

"Without a major change ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"Without a major change in the priority of NASA's aeronautics program, there is little hope for sustained world leadership of aeronautics R&T by NASA."

NASA is about US outreach to the islamic world. Get with the program already. NASA is leading in building muslim self-esteem. Who cares about space or aeronautics?

Count on obama's EPA and FAA to throw up sufficient road blocks to prevent any private space company from making any progress as well. Nothing can be allowed to do something the government is incapable of doing.

Not to worry Rick!... (Below threshold)

Not to worry Rick!

Barry is knocking them dead on the world stage!


Thanks to NASA, for the fir... (Below threshold)
Mohamad Albeenfarhteen:

Thanks to NASA, for the first time in my adult life I am proud of being a muslim thanks to all our contributions to math & science.

What are they again???

Sadly, I have a front row s... (Below threshold)

Sadly, I have a front row seat to this travesty.

I have never been more disheartened than by this administration's appointments and directives that are taking the space and aeronautics capabilities of our country and completely gutting them.

Pretty soon all they'll be capable of designing are paper airplanes.






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