In a recent blog post, Dr. Paul Spudis discusses the state of human spaceflight policy implementation – the Asteroid Retrieval Mission, and the human Mars flyby formerly known as Inspiration Mars – which he likens to “stupid space tricks:”
Viewers of the David Letterman Show (before it went to pot) probably remember a running gag where people would bring their pets to perform a variety of silly or dumb acts for the amusement of the audience. Letterman called this segment “Stupid Pet Tricks.” Although each particular trick was silly, the pet owners sincerely believed that their pets were gifted and were proud to showcase their animals’ various abilities. In fact, the whole exercise allowed the host and audience to smirk knowingly at the owners’ pride in their pets’ seemingly “human” abilities. This bit of low comedy has now been adapted as the central principle of our federal civil space program. The object now seems to be who can come up with the silliest idea for a human spaceflight mission. And boy, is the competition for that title fierce!
Elsewhere on The Space Review, Jeff Foust reviews the book, Innovation the NASA Way, by Ron Pyle. In the review, Foust notes the following:
The NASA of today, Pyle acknowledges, is different from the one that landed humans on the Moon 45 years ago: “it has grown up (some would assert that it has grown old).” Yet, he argues it’s still an innovative agency, in part because it’s able to harness what he considers to be three key elements of any such organization: creating bold plans, perform daring execution of those plans, and support a passionate workforce. The message of Innovation the NASA Way is that other companies and organizations can enjoy similar success by following those core tenets of innovation. It may even be a good reminder for NASA itself.
Is it any wonder why we are struggling with charting a course for human spaceflight?