The Emperor spoke in the windy city this week to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of NASA. We'd like to share some thoughts on his comments. But we have to warn you. This will be like shooting wombats on Tatooine.
1. "In my usual clueless fashion, I had failed to notice - until receiving a question from a member of the media - that this is the first time we have had women commanding both the Space Station and the Space Shuttle." The Emperor is out of touch, now admittedly so. No wonder he had no clue that his minions were messing up the aviation safety survey, right under his nose. Someone who is so out of touch with such important facts as these, is not paying attention to briefings, not in control of his organization, and potentially oblivious to even more important facts involving safety.
2. "It is my goal to get these critics to recognize that the development of space is a strategic capability for our nation, a view completely in keeping with the founding principles of the American nation - pushing back the frontier." No kidding? Why is it then, that the Emperor, the Chief Engineer of the Universe himself, is unable to propose a solution that would be ready to field when the space shuttle is retired. If he were so intent on getting his critics to recognize this strategic importance, you'd think he'd put his innovative minions and his six degrees to work coming up with something to fill the gap.
3. "For about a half-cent of every federal dollar, our nation's investment in exploring that frontier and, one day, colonizing other worlds, also ignites the development of technologies that benefit us here on Earth. It produces space-based capabilities like communications, weather monitoring, remote sensing, and GPS navigation that have been estimated to contribute $220 billion/year to our economy. " Living on borrowed, ancient history once again. ESAS made the argument that you didn't need new technologies to go to the moon. Upon ascending to the throne, the Emperor cancelled a billion dollars in investments targeted at new technologies. So either he's talking about what happened 50 years ago, or he's lying about today. Can't have it both ways. Show us the link between NASA's investments today and GDP tomorrow! Show us the money!
4. "More importantly, this investment in NASA inspires millions of people to pursue careers in science and technology, enormously benefiting our nation's broader economy. " Talk about hyperbole! Inspires millions? We graduate about 70,000 engineers every year from college. Certainly only a small fraction of them end up working with NASA. Maybe we are misunderstanding his point? Is NASA inspiring the Chinese now?
5. "NASA is in the inspiration business, and the resulting technological innovation drives our nation's growth. If America is to remain a leader in the burgeoning global competition, I contend that we must continue to be a nation known for our innovation, and we must continue our work on the New Frontier of space.' Hubble is inspiring. The Mars Rovers are inspiring. Cassini is inspiring. Tell us how an overweight, 50 year old capsule riding 30 year old rocket technology is inspiring?
6. "Our children and grandchildren are not as inspired by space exploration as they once were." Wait a minute. See 4. We thought we were inspiring millions. Don't believe that? See 5.
7. "As Admiral Hal Gehman noted in his report of the Space Shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation Board a few years ago, 'previous attempts to develop a replacement vehicle for the aging Shuttle represent a failure of national leadership.'" Let's examine the history. SEI. We think the Emperor had his hand in that proposal. X-33. How many ways can we violate basic physics? OSP. Big thing with wings on 50 year old rocket. Gehman was right. Our past attempts have been a failure of national TECHNICAL leadership. That is also why young engineers avoid NASA like the plague today. Kids can smell a stinker from miles away.
8. "China could easily execute such a [Apollo-8 like] mission with their planned Long March V rocket, currently under development and reportedly rivaling any expendable rocket in the world today. I have no doubt that they will have it in use, as they plan, by around 2012." Follow us on this logic thread. The Long March V is a 25 MT rocket. It will be comparable to our Atlas 5 Heavy and Delta 4 Heavy. The Chinese will be able to reach the moon in 2012. Yet the Long March 5 does not yet exist and our Atlas and Delta do. Shouldn't we have been able to use such technology to get back to the moon before 2012, especially if we don't have to invent new rockets? Indeed, the gap exists because of the Emperor's own choosing.
9. " Quite frankly, I do not have all the answers for everything NASA must do, or everything each of us must do collectively and individually to counter the alarming trends of which I spoke earlier. The first step, though, is to recognize the problem and to realize that we are in this together." Finally, truth.
10. "On October 29, 1960, exactly 47 years ago, the junior senator from Massachusetts spoke..." We'll save you the speech. The important thing is the invocation, once again of words from 50 years ago. And therein lies the Emperor's biggest problem. Not one original thought has found its way out of his head into our program of exploration. Instead, he is regurgitating ancient ideas, pumping them with steroids, and leaving them for the next generation to recognize as failure.