I’m Starting To Get It

I was a little kid during the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo programs. I was also a big NA$A fan, mostly because I had no idea that a private company could approach what a huge Gummint agency might accomplish.

Good times, eh?

So here we are in the Current Year, and these days, NA$A has turned into a bloated bureaucracy which functions both as a clearinghouse for other people’s projects and as a place for folks with advanced degrees to avoid going on welfare (I was about to write “public assistance” but…)

Just what are we getting with out tax dollars? Apparently this:


Top NASA officials and their partners in the International Space Station program gathered in Tokyo this past Friday and Monday, Popular Mechanics has learned, for behind-closed-doors talks on the next big step in human spaceflight: the lunar orbiting station. Officially known as the Deep Space Gateway, or DSG, the modular outpost will occupy an egg-shaped orbit around the moon in the 2020s, when it replaces the ISS and becomes the main destination for astronauts and cosmonauts.

Although all partners generally agree on the idea of the DSG, the exact design and use of the future outpost is still up for debate. NASA hoped to use the outpost as a springboard for missions to Mars, while others are pushing for the exploration of the lunar surface. These diverse goals will be hard to reconcile in one space station because of technical and financial differences and limitations.

Who are these “partners”? I sure didn’t see anybody but Americans during the live broadcast of Apollo 11 I watched as a twelve year-old.

This series of technical discussions in Tokyo concluded earlier today with the meeting of the Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB). This group is comprised of top space officials in the ISS program from nations including the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Japan. They will try to hammer out drafts of a joint decision for the heads of their agencies to view.

Russia will play an important role in the final design and purpose of the station, even though the Roscosmos State Corporation, Russia’s space agency, was late embracing the project. It’s now scrambling to figure out its political position and its level of technical contribution for the DSG.

Russians? You mean the guys whose moon rockets kept blowing up? The ones who got to watch us on TV like everyone else? Those guys?

Now that I’m taking a few minutes to think about all this, I’m starting to think that NA$A isn’t as bad as I’ve been thinking. Consider this: a bunch of meetings and conferences to agree on what this lunar-orbiting station is really going to do. Arguments, deadlocks, strongly-worded memos and emails flying about, apparatchiks of every stripe and nationality bickering to and fro.

And when this station is finally ready and open for business, the people from SpaceX can watch the ceremony from their toehold on Mars. Go NA$A!

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