If you’ve been paying attention to space news recently, you’ll know there’s a lot of conflict in congress concerning the course that they want NASA to take. It’s like a bunch of small children fighting over a teddy bear – in the same way that the bear isn’t fun for anybody with its arms ripped off, NASA is useless when it is paralyzed by being told to undertake a slew of different directions.
Jeff Faust at the Space Review goes into details, but here’s a quick summary of NASA’s directional conflicts:
- SLS vs. Commercial crew
- Going to the Moon vs. Mars vs. an asteroid vs. capturing an asteroid and THEN going to it
- Space science missions vs. earth science missions vs. manned missions
It’s this last category that’s most concerning because it has space advocates at each other’s throats, as opposed to just politicians (from whom we wouldn’t expect any better.)
Everybody wants their own missions to be funded, and so the space scientists attack the manned missions, the earth scientists attack the space scientists, and those in favor of manned space attack science missions. Embarrassingly, this last case includes myself.
The problem here is two-fold. The infighting both prevents a more holistic, productive approach to space exploration and focuses what should be excitement on negativity instead.
We shouldn’t look at money for one type of mission as stealing from another – space activities should be able to be more holistic, with developments used for one type of mission contributing to the rest. This is often not the case, but should be something to shoot for.
More importantly, by fighting over space exploration, all of us space geeks are missing the bigger point: we’re all on the same side. It’s like the situation in A Song of Ice and Fire (that’s the Game of Thrones series for you TV-show-only-folks): the warring of the great houses while the inhuman Others gather in the North.
The Others are not the people who advocate different missions than those we’d prefer, but the plethora of people who oppose space exploration all together.