A New Vision for NASA
They were dealing with all white males, and there was a lot of in-your-face, militaristic almost [communication]... I’m still a student at this, but if you want to inhibit communication, that’s a good way to do it these days.
the space shuttle program may well be NASA’s Vietnam. A generation of engineers and managers have exhausted themselves trying to make it work and they just can’t... The truth is no amount of arm-waving and worrying about “culture” can fix a flawed design... Simply put, had that spaceplane been on top of the stack, the destruction ofColumbia would not have occurred because its wings would have been out of the line of fire. Challenger would probably not have happened, either. Had the spaceplane been above the explosion, it likely would have been able to punch out and glide back home.
Proxmire saw to it that the entire Saturn V production and assembly line was shut down in the early 1970s, requiring even the destruction of the machinery and tooling necessary to build the rocket... In his grief over the destruction of his biggest and best rocket, Wernher von Braun, who lobbied Congress hard for a reprieve, told me in one of our last conversations that he considered it among the stupidest things this country—which he dearly loved and I’d never before heard him criticize—had ever done. I agreed... Why would any forward-thinking nation actually destroy its own leading-edge technology?... I’m still angry about it and will be until my dying day.
create an external entity to ensure that NASA hits its marks. In other words, set goals and achieve them. There’s been a lot of talk about re-instituting a National Space Council, an advisory group last seen under the first Bush administration and eliminated by the Clinton White House. Practically speaking, we should ratchet up the NSC by also setting up a board of directors... [including] a National Space Adviser, key members of Congress, academics, former astronauts or NASA scientists, a retired aerospace executive or two.
We should also look at tax holiday concepts. What if, instead of depending on the federal government to go back to the Moon [or presumably elsewhere], we created a way for businesses to see a great opportunity in traveling to the Moon. The opportunity is that if they get there and if they establish a permanent station on the Moon, the government will give them 25 or 30 years of tax-free treatment, not just for the facility on the Moon, but for the entire corporation. Now, all of a sudden, at Microsoft, General Motors, or some company that pays substantial taxes, people will be sitting in the boardroom asking, “How do we get there and get there cheap?”