Cover Story: When the NASA Love Is Lost

Categories: Cover Story

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Illustration by Jesse Lenz
SpaceX completed another successful mission toting cargo to the International Space Station on Sunday. The launch was livestreamed from Cape Canaveral, but it was all focused in Florida and Johnson Space Center was never mentioned. There was a time this would have been unthinkable.

Check out our cover story: Houston's Space Problem: Johnson Space Center Has Lost Its Identity and Purpose

When JSC first opened in Houston it was the place to be. The people working there were going to send an astronaut from the Earth to the moon. They were going to find a way to send people to Mars. It all seemed possible because it had never been tried before. But that was then. Today JSC has been sidelined while the government funds commercial spaceflight companies and announces plans for manned missions to an asteroid in the 2020s and to Mars in the 2030s. People don't think about traveling in space the way they used to. "The romance of spaceflight has lost its glamour," Chris Kraft, the first director of Johnson Space Center, said.

Talk of the asteroid mission plans makes Kraft, who worked on Mercury, Apollo and the earliest efforts to send astronauts into space, impatient. "That's foolishness. That's not a manned mission. That's not going to rekindle the new breath of spring for manned spaceflight, for God's sake," Kraft, now 90, said, raising his voice and allowing more of his native Virginia drawl to slide through. "There are too many political forces at work to easily explain why the country doesn't have a space program that is both doable and affordable. We could do it if we wanted to. It's possible. But it's not happening."

Johnson Space Center was once the focus of the country, the heart of manned spaceflight, but since the end of the shuttle program in 2011, it has been left to flounder, Kraft said.

However, commercial companies like SpaceX appear to be thriving, and the federal government is touting commercial companies as the answer. Many are predicting that commercial spaceflight will be the future for manned spaceflight, but what will this mean for Johnson Space Center?

Read about it in this week's cover story.


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2 comments
Ameriman
Ameriman

Innovative, efficient, spirited private enterprise takes fewer than 100 people to launch it's rockets...

Bloated, pork driven, big govt Federal Agency Nasa took over 13,000 to launch it's space shuttle.... still has over 8,000 'workers' at KSC despite no Nasa launches from 2011 to at least 2018....

Nasa keeps over 15,000 for 'astronaut support' at JSC, for only a couple of American on ISS...

Nasa promised America a $7 million/launch 'cheap, safe, reliable access to space' shuttle... then Nasa delivered a $1.6 billion/launch boondoggle which killed 2 crews and had chroni and multi-year service outages... the most expensive, dangerous, unreliable space vehicle in history.

While Nasa blew $20 billion on it's failed/cancelled Constellation, SpaceX produced far superior/efficient boosters/capsules for only $300 million....

Yet rather than leverage the far superior SpaceX vehicles, Nasa blows $100 billion and a decade more on the unneeded, shameless earmarked pork SLS/Orion boondoggles...

Federal Agency Nasa has spent over $500 billion on US manned space since Apollo without getting a single American beyond low earth orbit, leaving itself incompetent/incapable of crewing or even resupplying our own space station...


Govt doesn't work.... never has, never will, can't be fixed... Nasa is just another example..

The US space program is too important to be further entrusted to our incompetent, bloated, pork driven Federal Govt and Nasa.

RamonLP4
RamonLP4

Kudos, Dianna on this article. 

I grew up across the street from NASA and visited it all the time as a kid.  I used to love to walk around the place and know that this is where all the astronauts and enginneers were doing all this amazing stuff every day.  (Back then, it seemed to be that by and large you had the run of the place.)  It was insrpiring and exciting stuff and it's a shame that with the heightened security after 9/11, the canned and dumbed-down experience that is Space Center Houston, not to mention short-sighted politicians, kids these days just won't experience that same sense of awe and connection that I had when visitng JSC.    This article just brings home how depressing the place has become, how our country's priorities are all screwed up when it comes to science, and how Texans bear a huge brunt of JSC's diminished status by electing self-serving ideologues like Ted Cruz.

 

   

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