It is time for the NASA we know and love to change. Part of that change would be the
incorporation of NASA’s key leadership functions into a newly created cabinet
of the Executive Branch of the United States of America. That means if it occurs as expeditiously as
it should, this new organization would have General Charles Bolden, NASA’s
current Administrator, as the first Secretary of the Department of Space
Sciences and Exploration.
Why is this
necessary and why does it make sense? The United
States has progressed to the point in the space sciences and their application
where they must expand their design, development and project operations into a
joint effort between public and private interests.
- This expansion must
also include formalized international agreements that put in place a cooperative,
worldwide effort in the exploration of all aspects of our intergalactic
environment: the Universe.
- These changes/expansions
demand a policymaking role for the space sciences and their respective
exploratory efforts that encompass a national responsibility.
- Policymaking also
mandates a participatory one with the Office of the President and the
Department of State in related international negotiations for joint space
research and ventures.
- This joining of resources
is necessary to insure the full utilization of available financial,
intellectual, and engineering prowess is brought to bear for the
successful exploration of space. In other words, space exploration becomes
a global commitment from all humankind.
- Finally, the results of
our current research and explorations make it clear that there are space
related threats from Near Earth Objects (asteroids and comets) that need a
fully coordinated and functional detection and deterrence effort. This is best mandated and controlled by
a science-based policymaking entity.
Here again, international affiliations are vital to the
effectiveness of this effort.
This all makes sense, because our solar system and everything
beyond in this Universe are the domains of all humankind, not that of any one
nation or group of Earth’s nations. We must start now with that premise and
build our entire space science and exploratory efforts within that framework.
Finally, the new SSE department has a much more interactive
relation with both the White House and the Congress. With respect to the
Congress, SSE becomes more of an expert advisor and partner than as a
supplicant. Although the Office of the
President is the final policymaking entity, the collaboration between the
President and the SSE department would represent, in the majority of cases, a
joint policymaking effort on all space related matters.
happens to the old NASA? There are four mission directorates within the current
NASA organization. The new cabinet would include the functions of the four
directorates, but their respective organizational structures will change. Most of their sub-directorate functions would
become contracted with both the private sector and the research centers of
- It is anticipated that
the majority of design, development, production and deployment (launch)
functions will be through both contracts and affiliations between the
department and the private sector.
- Current NASA maintained
facilities for assembly, launch and recovery of space vehicles will be, as
it is now, a joint responsibility of the department, other agencies and
- Other NASA facilities
associated with other research or testing programs will reflect changes
due to contracts with the private sector and educational institutions.
Some facilities, however, are expected to remain within the department
Impact Analysis. The level of contracted efforts by the private sector
will grow somewhat, but it is expected that, going forward, the joint venture
concept will grow more rapidly. On the national level, joint ventures between
the department and the private sector would anticipate a mutual financial and
intellectual commitment by both the department and the private sector member or
members. The joint venture concept is important for the following reasons:
- By being a joint
venture between SSE and a private corporation or partnership there is both
a sharing of resources as well as a sharing of costs. This is important in
these early stages of space exploration.
- Profitability from direct exploration is
at least questionable and realistically impossible. This is because in its
earliest stages exploration offers information but no viable source of
- Without an ROI of some degree,
organizations with the required intellectual and investment potential
would be usually disinterested in starting their own full-scale space exploration
- These “gifted”
entities, however, could become interested in a joint venture where high,
positive and public visibility is a benefit. This could also include an
increase in their ability for future, follow-on space operations that hold
- Processes, procedures,
and equipment developed in a joint venture are usually jointly owned
depending on contractual agreements.
SSE could easily “sweeten” the venture by assigning full rights to
some or all of the development products or processes. The general
objectives being to undertake a successful exploration and also share in
the investment by the private sector in future space operations.
Joint venture opportunities on an international level are
already happening, and it is expected that these will increase and expand under
the DSSE concept. In this regard,
competition between space faring nations has been a healthy boost for moving
space technology forward, but now we must share our goals, and our financial
and intellectual resources. We must establish this in order to successfully
explore our solar system and beyond.
Certainly, the International Space Station is a clear example of an
early success in international joint ventures.
We must now expand and intensify that historic beginning.
- An expanded, joint
program to detect and deter Near Earth Objects that pose an imminent
threat to Earth and its inhabitants.
This effort is partially in place, and needs the stimulus of a more
active and internationally supported (funding and staffing) operation. The design, development and
implementation of a deterrence system must be a specific goal of this
- An ongoing and expanded
cooperative, international effort to address the “real” scientific issues
associated with global warming and associated climate change. An impaired
or endangered planet Earth will retard, perhaps even prevent, our successful
and ongoing ventures into space.
- The human exploration
of our solar system including placing humans on the planet Mars as well as
possibly one or more large asteroids or planetary moons.
- The extended
exploration of our galaxy, the Milky Way, first robotically, but in years
ahead by human exploratory missions.
All of the above reorganizations, joint ventures and
international cooperation will dramatically boost the economies of all
participating nations and will steadily raise the standards of living across
the globe. This is not just a casual
spin-off it is part of the evolutionary progress humankind must make. Space exploration is the necessary stimulus
to bring this about and scientifically and historically a mandated evolutionary
move by humankind. If we fail, we as
humans do not simply lose, we defeat the entire and glorious process of life
that inhabits the entire universe.
begin today for the benefit of humankind and all life beyond.
This author acknowledges that he is not a current member of NASA or any of its
contractors and is aware that some may wonder about his boldness in this
recommendation. He does, however, have over 18 years direct experience in the
aerospace industry in both financial and engineering management. He apologizes if he has offended anyone, but his
intent is to create an idea stimulus that produces support for something like
the Department of Space Sciences and Exploration. He believes we must make this
change, but defers to the real experts to make it a reality.