Tom DeLay pushed through funding for NASA “without a separate vote or even a debate.” In recent days.
NASA is poorly managed as an agency except for the successes of its unmanned programs. Once the pride of United States under the tutelage and later the inspiration of President John Kennedy, it has shown in the last two decades that it does not perform in the excellence with which it was founded.
Investigations after the Challenger disaster in 1985 showed problems with the agency’s thoroughness. Most of us didn’t pay much attention to these problems because of the heartfelt manner with which then President Reagan eulogized the Challenger crew and encouraged changes in NASA. But the Columbia disaster underscores the inept manner with which the agency at the highest levels deals with the perils of manned space flight.
It seemed clear to all that Columbia was in great trouble after we saw the pictures of a large tile falling off the spacecraft at liftoff. Investigators on the ground couldn’t see the actual damage and could only speculate as its extent. But the media, and I think also the American people wondered otherwise. Instead of the embarrassment and outstanding cost of a rescue mission where Columbia could be landed remotely leaving the crew safe, NASA’s administrators sent the crew to its death on a remote hunch.
I believe what is needed at NASA is a complete overhaul of its management structure which goes further than that which it suffered in the late 80’s and early 90’s. We streamlined the budget and increased un-manned missions programs with great success, but the decision tree seems to be regressing into ineptitude when it comes to the manned programs which still must be expanded.[Cross-posted at Opinion Times]