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The Failure of NASA has a very interesting three part op-ed by Phillip K. Chapman, concerning the abject failure of NASA as a space agency.

It’s very much worth reading for the historical analysis, and his recommendations are thought provoking and touch on something that has been occupying my attention lately: property rights. This issue seems to be a hot topic in various quarters lately — perhaps the right climate is developing to finally junk the proto-tranzi treaties barring private ownership, and work on something more conducive to human settlement of space. Cleaving the agency into a NACA-like R&D body and a human spaceflight promotion office has a certain appeal to it, especially given what NACA was able to do for aeronautics and the aircraft industry.

On the other hand, I disagree that the Shuttle needs to be grounded permanently and the ISS mothballed. I can sympathize with his arguments in favor of this, and with his preferred use of the Shuttle/ISS budget money, don’t get me wrong. But lousy though it is, I think it’s better to stick with what we have a little bit longer, until we can segue gracefully to an alternative. It makes no sense to throw away the only manned spacecraft we have, when at best we are maybe 3-5 years from flying a new one — to do so (especially without reform of the anti-market sentiment at NASA, to which Chapman refers) runs the risk of a “temporary” spaceflight hiatus becoming a permanent retreat.

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