Friday, May 29, 2009

Is NASA Losing Its Edge Again?

That's the complaint of one Hubble scientist.
David Leckrone, the senior project scientist for the Hubble, said NASA's new strategy for the post-space-shuttle era does not include servicing scientific instruments in space, and he fears that vast amounts of accumulated knowledge and technical expertise will quickly vanish.

"It just makes me want to cry to think that this is the end of it," Leckrone said at a news conference earlier this week. "There is no person out there, there is no leadership out there, there is no vision out there to pick up the baton that we're about to hand off and carry it forward."

He raises some good points. Fixing Hubble is good not only from a science standpoint, but also a public relations standpoint as well. Missions to repair Hubble get people's attention about the space program and make them have positive thoughts about the program. If he's right that NASA is losing the ability to repair things like the Hubble, then the program is losing something far more important than the knowledge of how to do this: They're going to lose popular support for the agency as a whole, which means that those shortsighted politicians who seek to curry favor with the idiots out there will be able to gut NASA in coming years.

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