Monday, July 18, 2016

It's a real mystery for me...

It's a real mystery for me...  First, a little background.

NASA has been in operation for almost 60 years (charitably not counting it's predecessor organizations).  It's an 18,000 employee lumbering, procedures-bound, sclerotic behemoth of an organization that has spent roughly $978 billion of taxpayer money.  Its spending is highly politicized.  The vast majority of that money was (in my view) completely wasted on pointless manned missions, or outright wasted on canceled or failed projects (often politically motivated).  Only a tiny fraction was spent on spectacularly successful robotic explorations.  The rate of progress since the race to the moon would compare unfavorably to molasses running uphill in February, in Nome, Alaska.

Compare that with the exploits of SpaceX.  Yesterday they launched 25 tons of supplies into low Earth orbit, then landed (for the fifth time!) the first stage – which now may be reused, dramatically lowering the cost of launch.  That reusable booster uses precisely the same engineering concepts that NASA has been telling Congress were impossible since 1970.  SpaceX has spent just over $2 billion, all privately raised or revenues from contracts, in its entire 14-year history.  It has less than 5,000 employees, and is a private for-profit company.

Here's the mystery to me: how can anyone, of any political persuasion, look at the difference in the performance of these two organizations, and argue that NASA should exist?  I try to imagine what might have been accomplished with NASA's $978 billion dollars if it has been used instead to fund $2B contracts from 500 companies to do hard, practical things like SpaceX is doing – instead of whatever the hell stupid thing that NASA is doing with our tax dollars now.  I can't get past a dozen or so...

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